Conversation, grammar, and fixedness
Adjectives in Mandarin revisited
The categoriality of ‘adjectives’ has been a favorite topic of discussion in functional Chinese linguistics. However, the literature leaves us with no clear picture of the ‘adjective’ category for Mandarin. In this paper, we take a usage-based approach to revisit the issue of adjectives in Mandarin. Our investigation of a corpus of face-to-face conversations shows that conversational Mandarin favors Predicate Adjectives over Attributive Adjectives. This pattern is explained by two facts: people primarily use Predicate Adjectives in conversation to assess the world around them, and these assessments (including reactive tokens) are a primary way for people to negotiate stance, alignment, and perspective, while Attributive Adjectives are used to introduce new participants into the discourse, which is a less prominent function in everyday conversation. We also argue that whether predicative or attributive, an understanding of adjectives in everyday Mandarin talk involves various facets of fixedness. This is substantiated by the fact that predicate vs. attributive positions attract different types of adjectives, kinds of collocation patterns, kinds of constructions, and pathways to lexicalization. Thus, this paper demonstrates that (1) interactional data can tell us much about the ‘psychological reality’ of the category ‘adjective’ for speakers; and (2) frequency and ongoing prefab creation are crucial to characterizing the categoriality and mental representation of ‘adjectives’ in Mandarin.
Keywords: attributive, discourse and grammar, prefab, fixedness, Mandarin conversation, adjective, predicative
Published online: 21 June 2010
Cited by 5 other publications
Basciano, Bianca, Gatti, Franco & Morbiato, Anna
Chang, Miao-Hsia & Shu-Kai Hsieh
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