17.1311, Review: Lang Description/East Asian Lang: Shi (2004)

Fri Apr 28 19:58:43 UTC 2006

LINGUIST List: Vol-17-1311. Fri Apr 28 2006. ISSN: 1068 - 4875.

Subject: 17.1311, Review: Lang Description/East Asian Lang: Shi (2004)

Moderators: Anthony Aristar, Wayne State U <aristar at linguistlist.org>
            Helen Aristar-Dry, Eastern Michigan U <hdry at linguistlist.org>
Reviews (reviews at linguistlist.org) 
        Sheila Dooley, U of Arizona  
        Terry Langendoen, U of Arizona  

Homepage: http://linguistlist.org/

The LINGUIST List is funded by Eastern Michigan University, Wayne
State University, and donations from subscribers and publishers.

Editor for this issue: Lindsay Butler <lindsay at linguistlist.org>

This LINGUIST List issue is a review of a book published by one of our
supporting publishers, commissioned by our book review editorial staff. We
welcome discussion of this book review on the list, and particularly invite
the author(s) or editor(s) of this book to join in. To start a discussion of
this book, you can use the Discussion form on the LINGUIST List website. For
the subject of the discussion, specify "Book Review" and the issue number of
this review. If you are interested in reviewing a book for LINGUIST, look for
the most recent posting with the subject "Reviews: AVAILABLE FOR REVIEW", and
follow the instructions at the top of the message. You can also contact the
book review staff directly.


Date: 26-Apr-2006
From: Keith Goeringer < kegoeringer at hotmail.com >
Subject: Peking Mandarin 

-------------------------Message 1 ---------------------------------- 
Date: Fri, 28 Apr 2006 15:56:21
From: Keith Goeringer < kegoeringer at hotmail.com >
Subject: Peking Mandarin 

Announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/15/15-1806.html 

AUTHOR: Shi, Dingxu
TITLE: Peking Mandarin
SERIES: Languages of the World/Materials 377
YEAR: 2004

Keith Goeringer, freelance translator

_Peking Mandarin_ is a descriptive grammar of the variety of 
Mandarin spoken in Beijing. _Peking Mandarin_ could serve as a 
reference grammar for linguists working with Mandarin, or for those 
studying Mandarin, but it also highlights certain aspects in which 
Peking Mandarin (henceforth ''PM'') diverges from Modern Standard 
Mandarin (MSM).  Professor Shi touches upon various aspects of PM 
and MSM, including phonetics, various syntactic structures, and 
discourse features.

A huge amount of material is packed into this slim (126-page) volume.  
Overall, the information is presented clearly, with ample 
exemplification and explanation.  The main shortcomings of the book 
are less than stellar editing, and the myriad frustrations the reader will 
encounter in dealing with the lack of different typefaces that seems to 
characterize many Lincom publications.

The book opens with a brief overview of the development of PM.  
Chapter 1 (pp. 4-18) lays out the sound system of PM.  It also 
effectively lays out the sound system of MSM, since the two systems 
are essentially congruous.  This is one of the troublesome aspects of 
_Peking Mandarin_ -- while sometimes areas where PM and SMS 
diverge are indicated, more often than not, a feature that is described 
as characteristic of PM could just as easily be characteristic of MSM.  
This is, of course, often the case when describing the relationship that 
holds between a dialect and the ''mother'' tongue...but it would be 
useful if some mechanism were more regularly incorporated into the 
book to indicate when something is truly a dialectal feature, versus 
something that holds for MSM as well.  (This is done in the section on 
the sound system when addressing r-suffixation [pp. 15-16].)  The 
degree to which r-suffixation is an unambiguous indicator of Peking 
Mandarin, vs. a generic Northern dialect (cf. Norman 1988, 144-145), 
is open to debate, but particularly for non-native speakers, some 
means of differentiating the two would be helpful.  Another feature that 
could be interesting to highlight is the tone sandhi involving a full tone 
followed by a neutral tone -- is the realization of this phenomenon in 
PM different from MSM?  One striking feature of the volume is the 
large number of apparent neutral tones in compounds -- but it is 
unclear whether these are truly neutral tones, or if the tone mark was 
simply inadvertently omitted.  Examples include (ll on p. 44):

fei1fei1shishi 'sturdily fat', 
han2han2huhu 'very vague', and 
wen3wen3dangdang 'very reliable'.  

One other minor quibble is that in the description of the pinyin 
transliteration system, no mention is made of the function of the 
apostrophe in disambiguating sequences such as [xian] from [xi'an] (a 
monomorphemic sequence from a polymorphemic one), or [pingan] 
from [ping'an] (indicating where the morpheme boundary is), nor on 
the status of the zero initial in such sequences.

Finally, it is interesting to note that Shi gives the phoneme 
represented by pinyin [r] the (ASCII) IPA value [z.] -- a voiced retroflex 
fricative.  This effectively contrasts [sh] and [r] in terms of voice, which 
thereby introduces the only such contrast for obstruents in Mandarin.  
Norman (140) writes:  ''Such a description [of _r_ as the voiced 
counterpart of _sh_] is, however, misleading; the Chinese _r_ is 
pronounced with less friction than the comparable English fricative, 
and acoustically sounds much closer to the usual American 
pronunciation of _r_.  Moreover, to consider _r_ the voiced 
counterpart of _sh_ would be tantamount to recognizing voicing as a 
distinctive feature in the phonological system of Chinese, a distinction 
which is otherwise unneeded.''  It would thus be interesting to know 
whether Shi is making a statement that PM does in fact have a voiced 
fricative, in opposition to MSM, or _r_ has come to be accepted as 
voiced in MSM as well, despite the effects this has on the symmetry of 
the remaining phoneme inventory.

Chapter 2 (pp. 19-70), on words and morphology, is the longest 
chapter in the book -- rather interesting, considering that Mandarin is 
typically categorized as a morphology-poor language.  The chapter 
addresses the distinction between morphemes and words, word 
formation, nominal morphology, and verbal morphology.  

On the question of adjectives, Shi seems to vary in his analysis.  On p. 
22f, he notes that ''(a)djective phrases in Peking Mandarin can 
function as the predicate in a sentence without the help of any verb,'' 
in addition to functioning as modifiers of a head noun.   This would 
seem to indicate that the predicative adjective is itself a verb, which is 
the analysis most linguists subscribe to, since otherwise one would 
have to posit a zero copula of some sort -- even when a verbal 
particle is present.  This is exemplified in Shi's example 62 (p. 51).
Pin2guor3 hong2le ban4 ge lai2 yue4  le.
Apple     red-le  half M  more month le
'The apples have been red for more than half a month.'
In other places, Shi is less forceful in how he wants to classify 
adjectives.  On p. 51, he writes:  ''...the perfective marker -le is 
attached to an adjective, which can function as the head of a 
predicate in Peking Mandarin.''  It seems that it would be logical to 
take the stance of Li and Thompson (1990: 826-827), who give three 
ways in which adjectives in Mandarin behave like verbs (no copula, 
negation with the same negative particle as verbs, and the same 
relativization structure as verbs), and conclude:  ''...it is sensible to 
consider quality and property words in Chinese simply as a subclass 
of verbs, one which we might call 'adjectival verbs'.''

Overall, the chapter on morphology offers a thorough catalog of what 
morphology exists in Peking Mandarin, with repeated indications that 
the morphology in question is primarily derivational, not inflectional.  
(Shi establishes on the first page of this chapter that Chinese does not 
inflect for case, number, or gender:  ''Like other dialects of Chinese, 
Peking Mandarin is predominantly a non-inflectional language in the 
sense that it does not overtly mark agreement, case, or gender.'')

Chapter 3 describes the syntax of phrases and clauses.  All in all, 
everything is laid out clearly, though there were a couple of points that 
raised questions.  On p. 91, Shi gives an example of clausal 
complements (his 57):
Xing2  la.  Bie2  ku1de  yan3jing1 dou1 hong2le.
enough part don't cry-DE eyes      all  red-le
'That's enough.  Don't cry so much that your eyes turn red.'
He contrasts this with his 59:
Zhei4 xiao3zi zai3  ren2   zai3de   zhen1  hen3.
This  rascal  cheat people cheat-DE really relentless
'This guy cheats people so relentlessly.'
Shi says (p. 91f) that the main verb in 3, [zai3] 'cheat', is transitive, but 
it cannot take an object because of the -de attached to it.  Because of 
this, the verb must be repeated for the object [ren2] to appear in the 
sentence.  However, on the same page, Shi says that [yan3jing1] in 
(2) is the object of the verb [ku1] 'cry', so the [ku1] should have to be 
repeated as well, giving either
(4') *Bie2 ku1 yan3jing1 ku1de dou1 hong2le
(4'') *Bie2 ku1 yan3jing1 ku1de yan3jing1 dou1 hong2le.

I suspect the difference between the two structures is that in (3), 
[yan3jing1] is both the object of [ku1] and the subject of [hong2], so no 
reiteration is necessary.  In (3), [ren2] is the object of the only verb in 
the sentence.  If the sentence were somewhat changed, a structure 
similar to (2) might be feasible:
?Bie2 zai3de   ren2   dou1 hen4 ni3.
don't cheat-DE people all  hate you
'Don't cheat (people) so much that they all hate you.'
Chapter 4 addresses discourse, and is the shortest chapter in the 
volume.  Shi states that Mandarin is sometimes considered a 
discourse-oriented language, offers some examples of how native 
speakers resolve potential ambiguities, and gives a sample of Peking 
Mandarin discourse.

I have pointed out some theoretical or other issues that brought 
questions to mind in this volume.  The biggest issue, however, is with 
the poor editing.  There is some type of corrigendum on almost every 
page -- generally they are of little consequence, but sometimes 
presumably incorrect tone marks are given, and due to the lack of 
differentiation between MSM and PM mentioned above, it is difficult to 
know what is truly a typo, and what is a point of divergence for PM.  I 
will give something of an errata list below, but this is just the tip of the 
iceberg.  Lincom would do well to improve the editing of these volumes.

p. 1 (Introduction), P 2, line 4, ''...both of which were establish by the 
nomadic people...'' --- 'established'; 
p. 11, P 7, line 3, ''The combinations actually occur are listed in Table 
Four'' --- insert [that] after 'combinations'; 
p. 25, P 4, line 2, ''When a speaker uses the inclusive pronoun 
zámen 'we'...'' --- change [zámen] to [zánmen] (while both 
pronunciations are possible for this pronoun, no indication is given of 
this in the text, and in the chart, only [zán] is given -- if there are 
phonetic or stylistic parameters that determine the distribution, it would 
be interesting to note); 
p. 29, P 4, line 2, ''...other interrogative morpheme are all very 
productive in these processes'' --- 'morphemes'; 
p. 31, p. 1, line 2, ''What usually being referred to as quantitative 
pronouns are...'' --- ''What is usually referred to as quantitative 
pronouns are...''; 
p. 47, P 1, lines 4-5, ''The beir4 'extremely' is (44), for example [...] 
while the lao3 'always' in (45) is a adverb...'' --- ''The beir4 'extremely' 
in (44) [...] in (45) is an adverb''; 
p. 50, P 3, line 1, ''The perfective aspect born by the verb...'' --- ''The 
perfective aspect borne by the verb...''; 
it is unclear to me whether the [ai4] used on p. 58 is a typo for 
[zai4] 'at', or is a dialectal or variant form with which I am unfamiliar:  
[Wo3men (z)ai4 da4 cao1chang3 ti1 qiur1] 'We play football at the big 
playground' (it is included in the list of ''prepositions'' on p. 69, but I 
could not find this meaning in my dictionaries; on p. 79, (19), there is 
[ai1] in the same meaning -- but first tone); 
p. 63, P 2, line 1, ''Although the functional elements yao4shi4 'if', 
yao4shi4 'if not' and dehua4 can convey...'' --- ''Although the functional 
elements yao4shi4 'if', yao4bu2shi4 'if not' and dehua4 'if' can 
throughout the book, change ''preposition phrase'' to ''prepositional 
p. 77, (9a-b), remove 'rats' from English glosses; 
p. 81, ff., line 1, 'patter' --- 'pattern'; 
p. 97. (74), [yi3ing1] --- [yi3jing1] 'already'; p. 98, line 1, 
insert 'hundred' between 'one' and 'percent'; 
p. 104, P4, line 3, 'characteristics' --- 'characters'; 
p. 105, (101), 'quite-quite-R' --- 'quiet-quiet-R' in interlinear; 
p. 108, (109) -- the [na3pa4...ye3] construction is not the one cited as 
being used in (109), which should be [bu4guan3...dou1]; 
p. 112, (122), [...wo3me jiu4 zai4 shang4tou hua2bi1ing] --- 
[...wo3men jiu4 zai4 shang4tou hua2bing1]; 
p. 126, line 2, reunite [n] and [ot] in interlinear; 
p. 126, line 12, 'whither' --- 'wither'; 
p. 126, line 14, 'quite' --- 'quiet'; 
p. 128, Thompson entry, insert 'the' between 'with' and 'ba'.

Some errors in tone marking include the following, though it is possible 
that some of these are dialectal distinctions or variations with which I 
am not familiar:
p. 22, P 1, line 6, [hai2liao2] --- [hai3liao2] 'chat broadly and aimlessly';
p. 27, (7b), tones left off of [Wo3] and [yao4];
p. 28, (7d), ibid.;
p. 39, line 11, [ling] --- [ling2]; 
p. 51, (61), [Dao4 nei4 shi4hou...] --- [Dao4 nei4 shi2hou...];
p. 76, (3), [Zuor2 ma1 gei2le wo3 ji3bai2 ] --- [Zuor2 ma1 gei3le wo3 
p. 86, (40), [hai4] --- [hai2];
p. 87, (41), [yixi4ang1] --- [yi4xiang1];
p. 90, (53), [zhu4-jin4lai4le] --- [zhu4-jin4lai2le];
p. 93, (62a), [bu4] --- [bu2];
p. 93, (60'). [shao1-bu4-re4] --- [shao1-bu2-re4]?;
p. 95, (67), [re2] --- [re4];
p. 105, (99), [yi4kuair4] --- [yi2kuair4]?;
p. 108, (110), [ni2] --- [ni3];
p. 111, (118e), [dei] --- [dei3];
p. 116, (3B), [Chi1bu4xia4] --- [Chi1bu2xia4]?;
p. 124, (17A), line 1, [ta] --- [ta1];
p. 124, (17A), line 13, [yi2ci2] --- [yi2ci4];

A few closing remarks that again highlight where some means of 
differentiating between PM and MSM would be useful.  On p. 53 is a 
nice pair of sentences ((69) and (70)) that contrast [zai4] and [cai2], 
both meaning '(only) then':
Wo3 ming2tian1 chi1guo wan3fan4 zai4 zou3.
I   tomorrow   eat-Exp dinner   then leave
'Tomorrow I will leave after I have dinner.'

Nei4tian1 lao3ban3 kan4guo  bao4gao4 cai2 zou3-de.
That.day  boss     read-Exp report   then leave-Part.
'The boss left that day after he had read the report.'
I have not heard [zai4] used in this sense before, but it is unclear to 
me whether this is a dialectal feature, or simply a gap in my 
knowledge.  (The meaning is given in dictionaries, with no flag that it is 
a dialect feature.)  I would use [cai2] in both sentences, but wonder if 
there is some parameter that motivates the choice of one over the 
other -- the time reference, for example, with [zai4] being used for 
future reference, and [cai2] for past.  This would hold also for the 
[zai4] used in (58) on p. 51.

In several places in the book, the tones given for [yinwei] 'because' 
are [yin1wei2], whereas my dictionaries (and personal use) reflect 
[yin1wei4].  Again, it is not clear if this is a dialectal feature, or a typo.

In closing, _Peking Mandarin_ is an interesting and useful volume that 
contains a great deal of information and exemplification.  It is a shame 
that, due to the poor editing and typeface constraints, this book could 
not have been made more reader-friendly.  One hopes that these 
issues will be taken into consideration for future volumes in this series.


Li, Charles and Sandra Thompson (1990)  Chinese.  In Comrie, 
Bernard, ed. The World's Major Languages.  Oxford:  Oxford 
University Press.

Norman, Jerry (1988)  Chinese.  Cambridge:  Cambridge University 


Keith Goeringer is a linguist by education and avocation.  His areas of 
interest include phonetics and syntax.

LINGUIST List: Vol-17-1311	


More information about the Linguist mailing list