Alternations of Mandarin Chinese

Alternations
Alternation name Description Examples Verbs
C
y The Mandarin ditransitive construction is coded as SVoO only, in which the prototypical indirect object o denotes a person as a receiver or loser of the direct object O which in its prototypical case denotes something discrete and tangible. This construction has an ambiguous constructional meaning in that the possessional transfer of O can be both rightward and leftward from S to o and vice versa. So the interpretation of a specific sentence hinges on the specific verb that enters into the construction. For that reason, this alternation is also termed as Neutral Ditransitive Alternation. Semantic extension can happen to all the three NPs, i.e. S, o and O, bringing about change in animacy and from material to non-material or information-like entities. The verb can also be extended along a continum, from factual giving or taking to unreal or conditional giving or not giving. All those extensions lead to constructional semantic extension.
(283)
Wǒ chī le tā sāngè píngguǒ.
wo
1SG
chi-le
eat-PERF
ta
she
san-ge
three-CL
pingguo
apple
‘I ate three of her apples.’
8
C
y The Mandarin Locative Inversion Alternation involves two semantically interchangeable syntactic constructions, contrastively coded as YVX and XVY, according to which both X and Y can be an NP and a PP. However, the former NP is interpreted or treated as a PP. The meanings of the alternation resolves around that something is placed somewhere and is being left in that state, or someone appears or disappears somewhere.
(120)
Yīzhī lǎohǔ chūxiàn zài cūnzi lǐ.
yi-zhi
one-CL
laohu
tiger
chuxian
appear
zai
in
cunzi-li
village-inside
‘A tiger appeared in the village.’
7
C
y The Mandarin Middle Alternation requires an active form with a passive meaning, and for that purpose, usually it is necessary to use an applicative qilai or an applicative-like durative marker ZHE to follow the verb. A critical condition for a verb to meet in order to enter this alternation is that the surface active linguistic form SV permits an interpretation of VS both semantically and grammatically.
(164)
Zhèzhǒng huòwu zhuāngqǐlái hěn máfan.
zhe-zhong
this-kind
huowu
goods
zhuang-qilai
load-APPL
hen
very
mafan
troublesome
‘It is very uneasy to load this kind of goods.’
26
C
y The BA construction in Mandarin is often termed the Disposal Construction or sentence pattern because it expressess how a pre-verbally placed object introduced by BA is disposed of. The functional motivation for fronting the object pre-verbally is that the sentence information focus needs to be placed on the post-verbal element so that all the other unimportant elements, mainly the object, must be moved across the verb in a leftward way. For that reason, a complement is often used to follow the verb in order to show the focus information, or the end result of the actions denoted by the verb, i.e., how the object is disposed of or in what state it is left or affected. Understandably, if the focused information is implicated, the use of the complement is optional.
(277)
Wǒ bǎ nàgè píngguǒ chī le.
wo
1SG
ba
BA
na-ge
that-CL
pingguo
apple
chi-le
eat-PERF
‘I ate that apple.’
40
C
y The Mandarin Quantity Ratio Alternation involves an accommodation or provision interpretation in that, in a coded SVO structure, S is enough to accommodate O, in which S is something inanimate while O is usually animate.
(219)
Shígè rén chī yīguō fàn.
shi-ge
ten-CL
ren
person
chi
eat
yi-guo
one-CL
fan
rice
‘Ten persons are to eat the rice from one pot.’
3
C
y The Mandarin Ambitransitive Alternation primarily involves the use of a type of verbs which can function as both transitive and intransitive. When used as a transitive verb, an SVO structure makes sense in that S causes O to V. When used as an intransitive verb, the reversed OV structure makes sense. However, idiomatic use of the alternation does not necessarily meet the condition. Since the Ambitransitive Alternation has to be split into two alternations: Causal-Noncausal (for transitive verbs) and Noncausal-Causal (for intransitive verbs), we always adopt the perspective of the counterpart verb form given in the list for this dataset.
(228)
Chuán chén le.
chuan
boat
chen-le
sink-PERF
‘The boat sank.’
7
C
y The Mandarin BEI construction is used to front an object in an SVO structure to a topic-like subject position so as to highlight a passive meaning of adversity, with an optional expression of the agent. To stress the adverse result or effect of an action denoted by the verb, a complement is often used to follow the verb. And this condition or quality renders some unqualified cases of BEI Alternation, as held by some linguists.
(281)
Nàgè píngguǒ bèi wǒ chī le.
na-ge
that-CL
pingguo
apple
bei
BEI
wo
1SG
chi-le
eat-PERF
‘That apple was eaten by me. / I ate that apple.’
48