A corpus-based study of successive patterns of Chinese modals
Being different from previous researches which explore the possible multiple modal patterns in Mandarin Chinese basically with invented examples, this study examines the attested patterns of successive use of modals facilitated by two large Chinese corpora (Corpus of Center for Chinese Linguistics Peking University or CCL, and Beijing Language and Culture University Corpus Center or BCC) and the reasons underlying these patterns. The data reveal that combinations of Chinese modals of different types comply with the proximity to the predicate verb of the proposition. The exact sequential order is demonstrated as follows: dynamic modality precedes the predicate verb; deontic modality precedes dynamic modality; and epistemic modality precedes deontic and dynamic modalities. In addition, different modal auxiliaries of the same type also co-occur in a special sequence. From the perspective of subjectivity and objectivity, we argue that the underlying principle of this ordering is that the more subjective a modal auxiliary is, the more distant it will be from the predicate verb of the proposition and vice versa. For successive patterns of different modal auxiliaries within the same type, the concept of gradability is employed. Although modal auxiliaries of the same type might occur at the same distance to the predicate verb of the proposition, they could characterize different degrees of gradabilities. Modals with higher degree of gradability could precede those with lower degrees, whereas those with the same degree of gradability are capable of the successive co-occurrence in either way.
Keywords: successive patterns, Chinese modals, subjectivity, types of modality, gradability
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