[Lingtyp] Intensification and causation

Jesse P. Gates stauskad at gmail.com
Sat Oct 16 09:55:28 UTC 2021

Dear Jeremy,

Could you tell us the precise Chinese dialect that this construction occurs
in? In many other Chinese dialects 'Adj.-de-hen' is simply an
intensification construction, so it is interesting how this dialect that
you speak of has constrained the meaning so specifically to a cause to
negative effect meaning.

Languages often have a choice between a negative intensifier and a positive

I think in English 'too' often has negative overtones to it, but not

In French, 'trop' is a negative intensifier and 'tres' is a positive one.
But I have heard that this is changing a bit and young people on the
streets use trop for some positive senses.

When I first started studying Chinese it took me a while to understand that
太 did not intensify in a negative way, necessarily. For example, if I say
in English, 'he's too fast', that usually means something negative (like I
can't catch him or beat him in a race), it usually doesn't mean 'he is very
fast' in a neutral way or 'he's so fast' in a positive way. But in Mandarin
他太快了 can be used for the meaning 'he is very fast', it can be used to get a
neutral, or negative, or positive meaning.

Best regards,

*Jesse P. Gates, PhD*Nankai University, School of Literature 南开大学文学院

On Sat, Oct 16, 2021 at 2:55 PM tangzhengda <tangzhengda at 126.com> wrote:

> Dear colleagues,
> In a certain NW Chinese dialect the adjective phrase of '*Adj.-de-hen*'
> (roughly taken to mean '*very Adj*.') can only be used *on condition that*
> it take the role of a CAUSE, or a 'causing state', by which a NEGATIVE
> EFFECT is resulted. The Negative effect, as an 'event' that has never
> factually happen, can be encoded as another clause, an element of the same
> clause, or totally covertly implied.  For example,
>                              INTS as CAUSE       NEG EFFECT
>          这   鸡            瘦-得-很,               他  不    买
>         this chicken    thin-de-very,             he   NEG. buy.
>         (When buying chickens)         这   鸡            瘦-得-很。
>                                                        this chicken
> thin-de-very
>                                                        'The chicken is
> thin (therefore he cannot buy it/it fails to be worth...)'
>       (See a chicken roaming by, no intent to buy)     ** *这   鸡
>   瘦-得-很
>               this chicken    thin-de-very
>  My wonder is whether some correlation exists between the intensification
> of a property (like an AP magnified by the degree words) and the CAUSTION,
> esp. negative ones (in Barros 2003, positive cause plus a negative effect
> is one type of the negative caustion where the relata is termed as
> 'prevention/interference').  Perhaps English 'too...to...' could be such a
> construction to connect the state/property and an EVENT.  If yes, how is
> the correlation motivated and typologically attested?
> With best wishes,
> Jeremy
> --
> 唐正大
> 中国社会科学院语言研究所《中国语文》编辑部
> 北京市建国门内大街5号,100732
> Institute of Linguistics, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences,
> No.5 Jianguomennei Dajie, Beijing, China; 100732
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