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The Chinese adjective as a word class

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Abstract

It has often been claimed that Chinese does not have an independent class of adjectives, which are seen by some authors as a subclass of verbs (cf. Li & Thompson 1981; Hengeveld 1992; Tang 1998, among others). In this paper, I shall first provide evidence for the status of adjectives as an independent word-class in Mandarin Chinese, both as the instantiation of a universal prototype (Croft 2000, 2001) and as a language-specific category, following Paul’s (2005, 2010) distributional analysis. Secondly, I shall show that the category of adjectives in Mandarin Chinese includes at least two subclasses, namely predicative adjectives (‘verb-like’ adjectives) and non-predicative adjectives (non-verb-like; cf. Lü & Rao 1981), i.e. those property-denoting words which can neither fill a nominal slot nor be stand-alone predicates but may act as modifiers of a noun, as liángxìng “positive, benign” (cf. Li 1996). I shall also discuss the category of ‘non-attributive’ or ‘predicative-only’ adjectives (Hu 1979; Deng, Wang & Li 1996), i.e. property-denoting words which can never be used as modifiers of a noun, but only as intransitive predicates, and I shall argue that they do not represent a separate (sub-)class in Mandarin Chinese.

References

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