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Affirmative–negative question
A question that is seeking an answer of either yes or no.
There are no tenses in Chinese; instead, there are
aspects, which indicate the stages of an event, such as
progression, continuation and completion.
A constituent in a sentence that appears before the noun
to modify it. For example, in the sentence 㠩㥸㔶㱸㮥⢔
㊱⼍☨ㇲ㈷㱹 ( Wáng xiAnsheng yNu yí ge piàoliàng de
nY péngyNu: ‘Mr Wang has a pretty girlfriend’), ㊱⼍ is an
adjective that is used attributively, and it is the attributive.
Auxiliary verb
An auxiliary verb is used to indicate desire, wishes,
obligation, assumption, possibility, ability, permission, etc.
It is followed by a verb. An auxiliary verb is also called
a modal verb.
See topic–comment structure.
(In Chinese) A word that appears after a verb or an adjective
to complete or expand the meaning of the verb or adjective.
Complex sentence
A complex sentence includes a subordinate (dependent)
clause and the main (independent) clause. In Chinese,
the subordinate clause appears before the main clause.
A noun or noun phrase that has been mentioned before
or whose existence/identity is known to people engaged
in the communication is considered to be ‘definite’. See
also indefiniteness.
Degree adverb
An adverb that specifies the intensity (or degree) of an
adjective or another adverb; for example, ⧶ (hLn: ‘very’),
➧⒋ (fBicháng: ‘extremely’), 㦐☕ (xiAngdAng: ‘quite’).
Dependent clause
See subordinate clause.
Direct object
Certain verbs such as ⢖ (gLi: ‘to give’), ⢄㚗 (gàosù:
‘to tell’), Ⱐ ( jiAo: ‘to teach’) can have two objects, a
‘person’ and a ‘thing’. The ‘thing’ is the direct object and
the ‘person’ is the indirect object. In Chinese, the indirect
object follows the verb and the direct object follows the
indirect object.
A two-character word is disyllabic. See also monosyllabic.
A noun or noun phrase is ‘indefinite’ when no one
engaged in the communication knows about its identity
or when only the speaker knows about its identity. See
also definiteness.
Glossary ix
Independent clause
See main clause.
Indirect object
See direct object.
A participant in a conversation or communication.
Interrogative pronoun
Interrogative pronouns in Chinese are similar to the
wh-words in English. In Chinese, besides being used to
ask questions, interrogative pronouns can be used to
make statements as well.
Main clause or main sentence
The clause in a complex sentence that is complete in
meaning. It can function independently without a
subordinate clause. See also subordinate clause.
Measure word
A word that appears after a number, 㸆 (zhè: ‘this’),
ㅍ (nà: ‘that’), ㅊ (nK: ‘which’), ⭎ ( jM: ‘how many’) or
ょ (mLi: ‘every’) and before a noun. With rare exceptions,
the use of the measure word is not optional.
Modal particle
A particle that is used at the end of a sentence to
express certain moods. Also called a sentential particle
since it appears at the end of a sentence.
Modal verb
See auxiliary verb.
In Chinese, each character has one syllable. A one-character
word is monosyllabic.
A sentence that does not have either a subject or
a predicate.
Object pre-position
When the object in a sentence is definite, it can be
placed at the beginning of the sentence or before the
verb. Such an object is called a pre-posed object.
A character with grammatical or pragmatic functions but
without a clear definition; for example: ⿺ (ma) is a modal
particle; ⼗ (le) is both a perfective aspect particle and
a modal particle.
Passive structure
A grammatical construction in which the subject is the
recipient of the action indicated by the verb, not the
performer of the action.
Placement verb
A verb that is not used to indicate an action but is used
to indicate someone or something being in a state of rest
as the result of that action. For example, 㨢 indicates an
action in 㚳㵀㺟㔋㨢⼗㑻⢔㽶 (TA zài zhM shàng xiL le sAn
ge zì: ‘He wrote three characters on the paper’), but is
used as a placement verb in 㺟㔋㨢㽥㑻⢔㽶 (ZhM shàng
xiL zhe sAn ge zì: ‘Three characters were written on
the paper’).
What is being said about the subject of the sentence.
It should be noted that it is possible for a Chinese
sentence not to have a subject or a predicate.
Pre-existent in the context
A noun or a situation whose existence is known by the
people engaged in the conversation or communication is
considered to be ‘pre-existent in the context’.
x Glossary
Relative clause
A sentence or a phrase (containing a verb) that is used
to modify a noun. In Chinese, a relative clause appears
before the noun it modifies.
Sentential particle
See modal particle.
Sentential subject
The subject of a sentence that is itself a complete sentence.
What or whom a sentence is about.
Subject–predicate construction A sentence that is composed of a subject and a predicate
that follows the subject.
Subordinate clause
Also called a dependent clause. It is part of a complex
sentence and is not complete in meaning. Therefore, it
cannot function independently. In Chinese, a subordinate
clause appears before the main clause.
Time phrase
A word or phrase that indicates when an action occurs.
Topic–comment structure
A sentence of which the predicate is one or more complete
sentences. The subject in such a sentence is referred to
as the topic, and the predicate is the comment.