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Discussion in '中文+方言 (Chinese)' started by BODYholic, Aug 26, 2013.

  1. BODYholic Senior Member

    Chinese Cantonese
    Moderator's Note: this following discussion is split from this thread.

    Your quoted sentence was "那个医生用药很特别" -> 用药 is a verb. Generic statement.

    "那个医生用药很特别" -> 用药 is a noun. Generic statement.

    "那个医生用药很特别." -> This is a affirmative statement. It answers to question like "那个医生用药很特别吗?"

    So at the end of the day, it really depends on the context or what was said before?
    Last edited: Oct 30, 2013
    : syntax
  2. kyrintethron Senior Member

    English - America
    Skatinginbc, everything that you said makes perfect sense to me, and falls very nicely within what I've come to understand of parallelism. The rhythm aspect I'm sure I'll come to be familiar with in the future, but for now, all of this is a perfectly good foundation for me to build upon. Thanks again.

    I suppose that voids my direct translation. Would it be more accurate to translate 那个医生用药很特别 as: "That doctor uses medication that is very special?" I haven't quite gotten to the grammar rules regarding adverbs, and again this could be totally wrong.

    If it's way off, how would you translate it?

  3. Skatinginbc

    Skatinginbc Senior Member

    Mandarin 國語
    Don't give it up yet. There are justifications for your analysis in #16, where you treated 用药 as a noun. 那个医生用药很特别 can be seen as having the same structure as 那个医生造型很特别, in which 那个医生 is the topic/theme of the sentence, 造型很特别 is the comment/rheme of the sentence, 造型 is a noun that serves as the subject of the rheme, and 很特别 is an adjectival (很 adverb + 特别 adjective) that serves as the predicate of the rheme. So 用药 is syntactically parallel to 造型 (a noun). 用药 got to be a noun :D.
    BODYholic, on the other hand, sees 那个医生用药很特别 as a parallel structure to 那个医生待人很和善, in which 那个医生 is the subject of the sentence, 待 is a transitive verb, 人 is the object, and 很和善 is the adverbial phrase. So 用药 is syntactically parallel to 待人 (a verb phrase) and 很特别 to 很和善 (an adverbial). 用药 got to be a verb :D.
    There must be only one correct answer. So who is correct?
    Believe it or not, I side with you, kyrintethron. We can test an adverbial by moving its location. For instance, 那个医生待人很和善 can be rewritten as 那个医生很和善地待人. 那个医生用药很特别, however, cannot be rewritten as 那个医生很特别地用药 without changing the meaning. 很特别地用药 seems to describe the doctor's particular manner of, rather than special approach to, using (prescribing, combining) medicine. Obviously, 用药很特别 should refer to the approach (method), not manner. In other words, 很特别 doesn't appear to be an adverbial in this case.
  4. YangMuye Senior Member

    Chinese - Mandarin
    Why only one?

    那个医生很和善地待人 doesn't sound natural to me.
    雨下的很大 -> ???很大地下雨.

    And I don't think “V.得很Adj.”, “Adj.地” and “Adv.” are the same in Chinese, even though they are all considered adverbials.

    In fact, I find that I often have to repeat the verbs many times in order to meet the positional restrictions of adverbials.


    On the other hand, 雨下得很大 can be rephrased as 下雨下得很大.
    用药很特别 can rephrased as 用药用得很特别, at least it sounds natural to me.

    待人待得很好 is ungrammatical to me. I think it's because 待 is not often used as a verb expressing an activity.
    e.g. 用了一次药,下了一场雨,*待了一个人

    I think repeating the activity noun, verb, object or verb phrase is a way to recall the context and give you some background information, so that you will know what the speaker is talking about. Someone may call it topic.
    他药用得很特别 (generic) is as good as 他用药用得很特别, but I prefer the latter. 他用药很特别 is even better.
    他作业写完了 (one-time) can be rephrased as 他写作业写完了, however I prefer the former.
    The 作业 here is not an individual of homework, but the activity of doing homework.
    The same is true of 雨. 雨停了, e.g. it is not the raindrops who stop, but the one-time event of raining.

    I think there must be a difference between describing generic statements and one-time event.
    We don't usually repeat the verb with 得 when describing generic statements and tend to use a verb phrase rather than only an object.
    Maybe using a verb phrase is more “context independent”.
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2013
  5. Skatinginbc

    Skatinginbc Senior Member

    Mandarin 國語
    雨下得很大 ==> 很大 is an adjectival modifying 雨 (a noun)
    我跑得脚发软 ==> 脚发软 is an adjectival modifying 我 (a pronoun)
    药用得很特别 ==> 很特别 is an adjectival modifying 药 (a noun).
    The fact that we have to use the “V.得很Adj.” structure (药用得很特别 or 用药用得很特别) to get a natural adverbial clause at the sentence-final position shows that 很特别 is indeed an adjectival (i.e,. 很 + Adj) when used to modify 用药.
    他用药很特别 "He, prescribing medicine, very special" = "the way he prescribes medicine is very special".
    他做事很小心 "He, doing things, very careful" = "the way he does things is very careful"
    他看书不仔细 "He, reading books, not thorough" = "the way he reads books is not thorough"
    The "generic", habitual, factual notion is expressed by the structure that involves an ellipted simple present copula "is" as in 他长相很特别 "His look is very special". I used the "地" test and YongMuye used the "得" test. Both methods seem to suggest that 很特别 is an adjectival.
    他穿着很特别 = 他穿戴衣饰很特别 ==> 穿戴衣饰 looks like a verb phrase but actually takes the slot of a noun (i.e., 穿着). Likewise, 用药 superficially looks like a verb phrase but, I believe, actually functions as a noun in 他用药很特别.
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2013
  6. kyrintethron Senior Member

    English - America
    I feel that I'm going to spend many hours poring over these last few posts to fully understand the difference, but I'm up to the challenge.

    Meanwhile, the questions I have will seem puerile by comparison, and refers to Skatinginbc's post, #20:

    You say that 用药 as a verb changes the meaning, but from what? In a circumstance in which we don't know the meaning (especially since it appears that both describing his "manner" and "method" are grammatically acceptable), what is the best practice here? Is it just to go off of context? And honestly, perhaps I'm not digging deep enough, but I'm not seeing much of a difference between describing "manner" and "method". For instance, in your example sentence, 他做事很小心, is their much difference between the translations "the way he does things is very careful" and "he does things very carefully"?

    With the lack of particles, it seems like making the distinction is pedantic. Is there much difference in the idea conveyed in our original example by "use" (as a verb, which BODYholic preferred) as opposed to "usage" (as a noun, which I sorta* came up with)?

    And speaking of my interpretation, I thought that 用药 was his "used medicine" or "medicine that he uses". Would I be better off translating such compounds as "use of medicine" or "usage of medicine"?

    As always, thank you for your thoughts and insights.
  7. zhg Senior Member

    I personally take 用药 to mean ”prescribe" here, used as an intransitive verb. I am no grammarian, so I don't know if one can analysize sentence this way:
    the whole sentence is somehow incomplete if you see 用药 as a noun , because then it would lack an important part we called 谓语成分 when building grammatically correct sentences.(In fact many spoken Chinese is somehow incomplete,due to omissions) you can't call it a complete sentence ,at most a phrase.

    Oops, I just did a google research ,it seems that my analysize is wrong, actually there are cases when "nouns" performed as 谓语.

    I have worked two possible explainations to this sentence both make sense to me.

    用药 很特别

    他用药 很特别
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2013
  8. kyrintethron Senior Member

    English - America
    And while I have the opportunity, I had some questions about your examples, YangMuye.

    1) In "我跑到学校跑得很快跑了三十分钟跑得脚发软。", I was able to work out the meaning, but is it common to speak this way? It may be a silly question, but I am still very much a beginner, and even in my studies of non-English languages, have never experienced a sentence so lengthy yet devoid of punctuation and conjunctions. Even the placement of the 了 seems arbitrary to me at this point. There's no need to go into depth explaining it, but if this kind of structure is commonplace, I'd like to study this as much as possible to be prepared for the future.

    2) In your other examples, "他药用得很特别" < "他用药用得很特别" < "他用药很特别", I'm having a remarkably hard time. Perhaps it's because I'm still just learning about compounds and still struggling with implied particles, or perhaps it's because we still haven't come to an agreement upon the part of speech of 用药 (verb or noun) and I'm still not sure what the translation should be ("use of medicine", "usage of medicine", "method of using medicine", "manner of using medicine", or "medicine used"), but it's very hard for me to discern the differences between these three examples.

    If you don't mind, could you give a direct translation of the three? The middle one is especially hard for me to decipher, whereas with the first and third ones, I'm doubting the accuracy of my own interpretations.

  9. kyrintethron Senior Member

    English - America
    Unless I'm mistaken, wouldn't 很特别 be the (implied) 谓语/predicate, describing the subject (那个医生用药)?

  10. kyrintethron Senior Member

    English - America
    It seems I replied before your edit. But yes, this is the problem that I talked about above. The practical question, though, is: would this cause a problem in conversation? Surely, this sentence can be interpreted either way, but is that likely to be an issue when dealing with basic communication? Is this a common scenario? or is this whole thread based on a rare anomaly? lol

    And if this is more common, is it generally avoided by using different nouns, verbs, etc.? or is the difference in interpretation so slight that it doesn't even matter? Or is this sort of thing typically recognized and overcome by the context of the conversation or further explanation by the speaker? It seems quite tricky in analysis, but perhaps in practice it's just an idiosyncrasy of Chinese learners have to get used to, the same way that we abuse, misuses and overuse prepositions in (at least American) English.

  11. zhg Senior Member

    That is absolutely possible. But that doesn't tell wheter 用药 is used as verb or noun here , I prefer to take it as a verb, it simplifies things, if it's taken as a noun I would add 的 to make it clear.

    Edit:There might be nuances between two versions of interpretation,(the verb sentence indicates a stronger active feeling, while the noun sentence simply describes a fact.) but as far as I am concerned they don't really make a diference, and people would understand you the same way, that the doctor prescribes in a unique way that is different from other doctors.
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2013
  12. kyrintethron Senior Member

    English - America
    That's what I was thinking, and even in my original interpretation, I speculated that the 的 was simply omitted, which it seems like is often the case in Chinese. I partially agree that it makes it simpler, but how problematic is this? Are the sentences close enough in meaning that it doesn't make much difference if you interpret 用药 as a verb or a noun? or does this sentence need to be elaborated upon by the speaker?

  13. YangMuye Senior Member

    Chinese - Mandarin
    That exactly what I want to express. So they have basically the same function in this context.
    We classify words into their part-of-speech according to their usages (,which is actually not absolutely necessary), not identify their usages by their lexical category.

    You can say this way: 我跑到学校(pause)跑得很快(pause)跑了三十分钟(pause)跑得脚发软。
    It's not common to speak this way. But if that is what you need, you have to use a structure like this.
    Is it common to have 8 adjectives modifying a noun in English? :D

    The usage of 了 is a difficult topic.
    A general rule, if a verb is completed and followed by an quantifier like (三十分钟), in 95% of cases, you will need 了.

    用药 itself is like many nouns, e.g. you can say 他的用药. But It doesn't means the function of 用药 here is the same as a typical noun. It's hard to say 他的看书很仔细, 他的做事很小心, etc. although you can say 看书是一项活动.
    The 药 along with 用 forms a verb phrase, 药 is not the materiel of medicine but the object of the action. 用 is not "use", but a abstract concept of "to perform" the action of 用药.
    Recall the 雨's example.
    (It may sounds like advocating nouns and verbs don't have meanings by themselves. I'm not saying that, but generally each combination is a totally different concept, which is not literally dividable. Cross language comparison will make it even more clear. Some linguists may find it hard to accept this.)

    As for the meaning of 用药, it's a little abstract.
    You can consider 他的用药 is a way to express 他用药, 错误的用药 is a way to express 错误地用药, 抗生素的用药 is a way to express 使用抗生素.
    It's an abstract noun which provides a grammar device so that you can express some idea easily.

    Such usage is very common in Japanese. Nouns are widely used to express commands, suggestions, happenings, respect, progressive aspect, plan, intent, emotion, attribute, state, etc. Every noun is very different considering these usages.

    English use abstract nouns a lot, too. (words ending with -ity and -tion)

    Chinese has less abstract nouns, I think.

    On the other hand, directly using a verb/adjective or sentence in Chinese often saves you one word(我的用药<>我用药)
    In English, you usually have to add more words(that he is kind<>his kindness).

    They mean "The way he uses medicine is special".
    It might means many things depending on the context,
    1) Other doctors usually use medicine A, but he always use B, which is not common.
    2) Other doctors usually ask you to drink your medicine, he asks you to swallow it.
    3) Other doctors usually ask you to take medicine three times a day, he ask you to take medicine 1 time a day.

    zhg suggests 用药 means to prescribe, which is the usually interpretation, because we don't take medicine every day and in different ways.
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2013
  14. zhg Senior Member


    What sentences ? "他药用得很特别" < "他用药用得很特别" < "他用药很特别" or the two interpretations of the same sentence 他用药很特别. Those sentences are slightly different on stress, the first one put emphisis on medicines,ie. different medicines; the second on "use" ,he uses differently; the third take 用药 as "prescribe" he prescribes differently.(or You could argue that 用药 is used as a noun, the literal translation should be "his use of medicine" but that isn't really going to change the whole idea)

    To make sure we are still on the same track, I think we need to make a summary of what we are disscussing here.From my observation, there are two problems remain to be solved.

    1. What is the syntax analysis of the sentence 他用药很特别?
    2.What does the word 用药 function as a verb or a noun or ...?

    I myself recommend you to think it as a verb, not only due to simplicity, but also because in the first 主谓补 syntax analysis, taking it as a noun doesn't seem plausible to me. While a verb soltution seems to fit in with both possibilities.
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2013
  15. kyrintethron Senior Member

    English - America
    Hahaha, I'm glad to hear it. That sentenced had me worried about how long it might be before I could consider myself comfortable with Chinese.

    And as a matter of fact, it's actually not all that uncommon to hear a long string of adjectives being used to describe a noun, though it's generally hyperbolic and being used in music or media to emphasize a point. E.g. there's a country song I like (appropriately titled "I'm Country") where one of the last lines is: "I'm a dog-runnin', deer-huntin', fish-catchin', cow-tippin', corn-pickin', cider-sippin', fight-startin', kid-raisin', wife-lovin', gun-totin', hay-balin', pea-pickin' country." lol Perhaps they're not adjectives by definition, but they're nevertheless descriptors with the exact same function and usage.

    I see. This was totally my silly mistake. For some reason, I thought the third 跑 was part of the second "sentence" (跑得很快跑了). This makes considerably more sense now. :-D Though I do find it odd that 了 is not used in the other instances that are clearly past tense...

    Perhaps the obvious past tense is why it's not needed. Anyway, that's a topic for another thread, and that I'm sure I'll learn all about in my studies.

    This is alarmingly confusing.

    ...actually, I'm getting close (I started writing, but in the process came to some realizations). ...in fact, I think I get it now. 用药 is probably best translated as "the practice of medicine", where "practice" is in its infinitive form, or "the practicing of medicine", with the gerund. If this is the case, all of this makes sense to me now, and I can see where the verb/noun debate originates from.

    他的用药/他用药 = "his practicing of medicine" (hence the distinction between "method" and "use"/"usage")
    错误的用药/错误地用药 = "medical error" (literally, "erroneous practicing of medicine")
    抗生素的用药/使用抗生素 = "the practice of using antibiotics" (literally, "antibiotic [medical practice]" - okay, that one was a bit harder to stretch in English, but the concept is still readily comprehensible)

    Surprisingly, I can't think of too many examples of this is Japanese, unless you mean the nominalization of verbs and phrases with の and こと and other such particles.

    At long last, I'm starting to feel comfortable with this, but I'm still having trouble with
    他药用得很特别 and 他用药用得很特别.

    My understanding was that Chinese is a SVO (subject-verb-object) language, so seeing (what looks like) SOV in 他药用 is confusing me (unless 药用 is another compound I simply don't know about). Or could this possibly be a truncated version of 他药用得很特别, where 他药 ("his medicine") is the subject and 用 is an intransitive verb with an implied passive voice ("his medicine is used specially")?

    The third is riddled with puzzles for me. Is this 他用+药用得很特别 or 他用药+用得很特别? If it's the first, how does one "use" an infinitive ("he uses medical practice specially")? If it's the second...well, I don't even have a clue if it's that formation.

    I've almost got this all figured out, thanks to your (collective) help!
    ...unless everything I just said was completely wrong, lol. ^_^

  16. kyrintethron Senior Member

    English - America
    by zhg

    If it turns out that my infinitive/"gerund" assessment is correct, then for all intents and purposes, it's a word that functions as both a noun and a verb, being able to be assigned to a possessor like a noun, and taking adverbs like a verb. It also fulfills the grammatical necessities of subject + predicate. If what I said above makes any sense and translates well, I'd nominate this as the likely solution: 用药 is both a noun and verb.

  17. Skatinginbc

    Skatinginbc Senior Member

    Mandarin 國語
    Most native speakers know the meaning of 他用药很特别, which can be translated as "the way he prescribes/uses medicine is very special" (see Post #22, #30). If 特别 serves as an adverb, it would be an adverb of either degree or focus meaning "very, especially, particularly, extraordinarily", specifying the extent of an action or drawing attention to specific information (I mistakenly labeled it as "manner" in Post #20 and have caused some confusion). For instance, 特别用简例来论述 "He specifically used simple examples to make a point".
    特别地照顾我 "He especially looked after me" means differently from
    的照顾很特别 "The way he looked after me is very special". The former is a focusing adverb; the latter is an adjective of manner.
    Yes. "use of medicine".
  18. kyrintethron Senior Member

    English - America
    This makes sense to me. Though I'm not sure why 地 is not needed in 他特别用简例来论述 but is present in 他特别照顾我. There are other mysteries (to me right now), but I'll work those out on my own. I'll at least make a slight attempt to keep this thread on topic. ^_-

  19. Skatinginbc

    Skatinginbc Senior Member

    Mandarin 國語
    Sorry, I didn't intend to use different forms. If you like, let's say 他特别地用简例来论述 or 他特别照顾我 instead.
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2013
  20. kyrintethron Senior Member

    English - America
    I don't much mind, I was just confused. If its simply optional, that's good to know. :)

    Btw, have you had a chance to read my long post on 用药 (and the one after it)? Do my ideas and conjectures make sense?

  21. zhg Senior Member

    You assessment makes sense to me, by comparing it with English gerunds. But in other situations it doesn't seem to work, I mean if it the possessors are inanimate subjects like, 上海(最近几年)发展很快, 发展 definitely should be a verb not a noun, if it's seen as a noun 的 is needed,not optional.
  22. YangMuye Senior Member

    Chinese - Mandarin
    After I finished writing, the post had got long. I wrote a lot on grammar which I believe is unnecessary.
    My point is that, you don't need to know how to analyze the grammar to master Chinese. Even if you found an explanation, it might only apply to this particular structure. It might not be worth the effort.

    I just realized I made a typo in the original post. I wrote "that is what you need, you have use it" but what I wanted to write is "If that is what you need, you have to use it."

    As I said, 了 is very difficult. (And tense/aspect/mood are hard in all languages.)
    I think it doesn't have much to do with "past tense". Although in many contexts, it functions the same as English simple past.

    I don't advise you think this way, though. Chinese doesn't have morphological distinction between "infinitive" and "gerund". Chinese doesn't have the concept of "finite" at all, which might be why we don't need infinitive and gerund. All words are naturally non-finite.
    You can choose any theory you feel more intuitive. Just be careful, this structure in Chinese is not equal to English infinitives or gerunds. The "noun" version and "non-finite verb" version of 用药 are not exchangeable for all usages.
    As a result, I suggest you forget these grammar terms, simply learn this sentence as a pattern: "他(1)很(2)", where (1) can be a verb phrase or a noun, (2) can be an adjective.
    I personally think this is the most intuitive way to understand.


    The 漢語 verb "勉強" can be used either like a
    real noun or a verb. When it's used like a noun, the objective case particle を is changed to の. (If there are any other adverbials, they are changed to adjectives too. e.g. について→についての、において→における、によって→による, etc.)

    The 和語 verb "食べる" can't be used like a noun. Although one can argue that 食べ and み looks like a noun, works like a noun and and take a noun's position (ご飯 is definitely a noun), they must be treated different. They just fit in the "に-slot" of the verb 行く.

    他用药用得很特别 is 他/用药//用得/很特别.
    他的药用得很特别 is also possible. The same as 他的字写得很好.
    But 他的写字写得很好 is unnatural.

    Let me paste the most important part of my post again.
    So 用药 is either a activity noun or a verb phrase. 他 用药 很特别 is fine.
    药 is an object of the verb 用, which refers to the activity of 用药. 他 药 用得很特别 is fine.
    药 used as an object is a noun, too. 他的药 用的很特别 is fine.
    用药 is a noun, 他的用药很特别 is fine.
    However, 他的写字 is unnatural.
    Using the object to represent the whole activity and using the verb to represent the concept of "do the activity" are so common in all languages.
    But I still think it's worth making it clear because the functions are so different.


    I suggest you think SVO as S<O, which means: the subject/background/context comes first and followed by a word correlating it with new information. V looks like a hook, which hooks O to S. The structure(hooks) can be chained.

    I'm going to America.
    Plan relates 我 with 去美国, so we put 计划 in between and use it as a verb. The Japanese verb put it at the end of the sentence.

    She has long hair
    彼女は長い髪です (In this situation, hair is considered a attribute that everyone has and "long" is the most important thing.)


    In fact, SVO languages tend to use prepositions and SOV languages tend to use postpositions. It doesn't matter whether these particles are or came from verbs/adjectives, adverbs or nouns. As particles are used to show the relation of words, they will find their best natural position.

    However, it's just a preferred word order, not a "must". e.g. 我早上在家吃饭.

    Everyone has breakfast and may have breakfast in a different place. So 早上 itself doesn't convey any valuable information. It relates 我 and 在家吃饭.
    However, according to the preferred word order, everyone eats, so the sentence should be 我早上吃饭在家, which is actually incorrect.

    I said 他用药很特别 is preferred when I want to make a generic statement because it seems more context-independent.
    I think it's because the verb 用 itself doesn't make sense. The combination of 用药 is understand as a unit, which relates 很特别 to 他.
    他药用得很特别, 药 might refer to an specific action/event which has happened in the past, so the listener can understand it without seeing the verb "用".
    用得 relates 很特别 with 药. 药 relates 用得很特别 with 他.

    I'm very common to move the object after the subject when the object is specific.
    他作业没写完 (We know he has homework.)
    你钥匙带了么 (You are asking for THE key.)
    你事情做好了吗 (Tell me THE result.)
  23. Skatinginbc

    Skatinginbc Senior Member

    Mandarin 國語
    To a beginner of Chinese language, I would say "yes" to that statement for the sake of easy explanation or comprehension. To a student of linguistics, I however would point out that there is more than meets the eye. Historically, the distinctions between adjectives and verbs in Chinese are quite blurry, often functioning as one single category in terms of part of speech. There is probably no omission of the linking verb 是 because it is arguably never there in the first place for a predicate adjective (unless in a "marked" sentence). We may even argue that 用药很特别 is actually the underlying structure of 用药是很特别, not the other way around. As for the omission of 的, it cannot be determined by examining only one isolated sentence. We have to look at the discourse level. It is more likely than not that 那个医生用药很特别 parallel 他看书很仔细 or 他做事很小心 without the involvement of 的 omission.
    那个医生用药很特别, 必定是黄药师的弟子 = 那个医生用药很特别 "the way that doctor uses medicine is very special" + 那个医生必定是黄药师的弟子 "that doctor must be a student of Huang the Medicine Man" ==> 那个医生 is the topic of the discourse, 用药 the subject of the first sentence, and 很特别 the predicate of that sentence.
    Compare the following:
    他特别(地)用功 "He studies especially hard" vs. 他用功, 很特别 "He studies hard, which is very unusual" vs. 他用功的方法很特别 "The way he studies hard is very unusual".
    他特别(地)用心 "He especially puts his heart into it" vs. 他用心很特别 "The way he puts his heart is very unusual" = "His motive is very unusual".
    他特别(地)用药 ==> unnatural like English "He especially uses medicine". vs. 他用药很特别 "The way he uses medicine is very unusual" = "His prescription is very unusual".
    用心 and 用药, when serving as nouns, have special meanings, that is, "motive or the way one's heart is put" and "prescription or the way medicine is prescribed" respectively. They do not simply mean "putting one's heart" or "prescribing medicine", an indication that they are probably not mere "gerund", nor are they "verbs".
    Chinese languages in general are largely SVO. Among all Chinese languages, Mandarin, which has been greatly influenced by the Altaic languages (e.g., Manchu, Mongolian), has the most SOV structures, arguably in the process of becoming a SOV language.
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2013
  24. kyrintethron Senior Member

    English - America
    Okay, so this question will probably sound amateurish, but why couldn't this sentence be read as "Shanghai's development has been rapid" instead of "Shanghai has developed rapidly"? And if it's a matter of using 的 (上海发展很快), why doesn't the doctor need this if we look at 用药 as a noun (他用药很特别)? Is it specifically because 上海 is inanimate? (I know that 的 can be dropped with personal pronouns [我, 你, 他/她], and it seems there are no qualms against dropping 的 with people. Is this option not available with inanimate objects? And what about non-human animate "objects" like animals and robots?)

    I understand what you're saying. And at long last, I feel we've come full circle, and I understand why there's been a debate about the part of speech 用药 should take. The more this discussion progresses, the more I'm comprehending this structure in general (it has been a great help). I suppose I should've said that 用药 can function as both a noun or a verb, but in retrospect sounds ridiculously obvious, lol.

    I won't spend too much time on this, because obviously, this isn't the Japanese forum, but I'm not convinced that 勉強 nor ご飯 function as both nouns and verbs. Nouns for sure, but when 勉強 is prefixed to する, it creates a verb with a pattern that is specific to する, not 勉強. This can be done with many other nouns (操縦、飛行、金儲け、etc), but 勉強 doesn't do this with other verbs. Outside of this, 勉強 functions exclusively as a noun.

    As for the に行く structure, ご飯 and 映画 are still both nouns with their corresponding verb stems (食べ and 見) omitted for curtness and casualness (from my understanding anyway). From that perspective, all of your examples make sense. Of course you can't say の食べ and の見, because those are verb stems and not nouns, and thus can't be possessed.

    (I didn't quote everything for the sake of saving space, but assume this incorporates everything you said below, too.)

    Okay, I'm slowly catching on to this now (I think). One of the last things confusing me is the second 用 in 他用药得很特别. What is this actually signifying? And is it the verb form "to use" or the noun form "use/usage" (if I'm paying attention correctly, the distinction doesn't really matter for comprehension)? From my understanding right now, the second 用 is redundant, giving a meaning like "His method of using medicine is used (by him) very specially" or more comfortably "He uses his method of using/practicing medicine very specially". Am I on the right track here?

    Secondly, I've come across a possibility that somehow I've failed to ask about. Is this compound structuring pretty universal with it comes to matching a single character verb with a single character noun? or are most of these structures preconceived? What I realized as we've been discussing this is that some dictionaries are more comprehensive than others, lol. For instance, various C-E dictionaries have 药用 but not 用药. But using 汉-汉词典, I was able to find both 用药 and 药用.

    Lastly, I understand 他的字写得很好. :-D But as for the unnatural 他的写字写得很好, are either of these versions natural?

    And you said that 他的写字 is unnatural. Is 写字 fundamentally different from 用药 in grammatical behavior? or does it just sound unnatural because [x]的写字 not used very often?

    This is pretty interesting. I'm comfortable with prepositions in Chinese (for now, lol - who knows what surprises lie in wait for me?), but the switching of the object and verb is unexpected. I have some ideas about this, but again, I'll leave them to future learnings and discoveries, and spare this thread from another me-induced tangent, lol.

    Overall, I'd say that I feel as if I have a pretty good grasp of this concept. Aside from the above questions, I think that I understand this now (thanks to your invaluable help).

    Last edited: Sep 13, 2013
  25. Skatinginbc

    Skatinginbc Senior Member

    Mandarin 國語
    Hi, Kyrintethron, none of the quotes in #41 is from me. For some reasons some of them were attributed to me :).
  26. kyrintethron Senior Member

    English - America
    Ha! That's my (egregious) mistake. It's been corrected.

  27. Skatinginbc

    Skatinginbc Senior Member

    Mandarin 國語
    V + N + V + 得 is a productive fixed structure:
    他用药得特别 ==>他(topic)用药(gerund serving as subject)(main verb)得特别(descriptive complement)
    他写字得很好 ==> 他(topic)写字(gerund-subject)(main verb)得很好(descriptive complement)
    他走路得很快 ==> 他(topic)走路(gerund-subject)(main verb)得很快(descriptive complement)
    他唱歌得好听 ==> 他(topic)唱歌(gerund-subject)(main verb)得好听(descriptive complement)
    药用 (medical use) vs. 用药 (use of medicine). 药用大麻 "marijuana for medical uses" = "medical marijuana".
    他的字写得很好 ==> 他的(possessive)字(a regular noun)写(verb)得很好(descriptive complement) ==> well-formed.
    他的写字写得很好 ==> 他的 (possessive)写字(gerund)写(verb)得很好(descriptive complement) ==> ill-formed because Chinese gerund, unlike English gerund, bars the possessive form.
    他写字写得很好 ==> 他(topic)写字(subject-gerund)写(verb)得很好(descriptive complement) ==> well-formed.
    他写字得很好 ==> 他(topic)写字(subject-gerund)得很好(descriptive complement) ==> ill-formed because there is no main verb in that sentence, or 他(subject)写(verb)字(object)得很好(descriptive complement) ==> ill-formed because a 得-led descriptive complement can only follow a verb (e.g., 跑得快) or adjective (e.g., 红得發紫).
    Compare to the following:
    他书法写得很好 ==> 他(topic)书法(subject, a regular noun)写(verb)得很好 ==> well-formed
    他的书法写得很好 ==> 他的 (possessive)书法(a regular noun)写(verb)得很好 ==> well-formed
    他文章写得很好 ==> 他(topic)文章(subject, a regular noun)写(verb)得很好 ==> well-formed.
    他的文章写得很好 ==> 他的 (possessive)文章(a regular noun)写(verb)得很好 ==> well-formed.
    写字 is different from 用药 in grammatical behavior because 用药 can serve as a regular noun but 写字 cannot.
    Why not? 很快 is an adjective, not an adverb, in 上海发展很快. As a matter of fact, it has been argued that adverbs in Mandarin exclusively occur in preverbal position (http://crlao.ehess.fr/docannexe.php?id=1326). There is no such thing as postverbal adverbs of manner in Mandarin. 很特别 is certainly an adjective in 他用药很特别. It is not a modifier of 药 (他用药很特别 ≠ 他用很特别的药). It modifies 用药. 用药 modified by an adjective is therefore a noun, not a verb phrase.
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2013
  28. zhg Senior Member

    I have racked my brain trying to think of a conter expamle that where inanimate subject takes gerund-like object, 的 can be omitted. Unfortunately it has not yet occrurred. So it looks like as long as you wish to keep the possession relation clear between inanimate subjects and gerund-like objects, 的 is better added.
    Since 上海发展很快 and 上海的发展很快 do make difference in Chinese speakers' mind.
    Sorry for being unable to answer your "why question" directly.Maybe other members can help you with that.
  29. YangMuye Senior Member

    Chinese - Mandarin
    Well, there are different views on it.
    1) You can assume ご飯 is a noun and the function of a word must be one of subject, verb, object, etc. As the structure of 勉強に行く ご飯に行く 食べに行く are the same, they must function the same. Then you will conclude that 勉強 and 食べ(verb stems you said) can function as a noun.
    2) Since the first theory doesn't seem useful, as even if it seems to have answered "why", but it failed to answer "when"(I can use it as a noun) and "what" (does it mean by a noun), you end up adding a constraint on it: you can only use verb stems as nouns before this particular structure "~に行く".
    3) Both theory are generalizations, which generalize a word's usage/function (aka. part-of-speech). Awkwardly, however, it can't apply to most cases. As a result, we take an opposite approach. We make every usage a pattern without bothering too much the part-of-speech. The result will look like this: サ変動詞語幹/五段・一段動詞・サ変動詞の連用形/名詞+に行く

    All three views are common, I won't say any one is wrong. But I am with 3.
    It can be considered that the term part-of-speech is overloaded. We should not mix up a word's morphological behavior, semantic behavior with its syntactic one.

    So my response to your first statement:
    All those alternative basically mean the same logically. (It will be hard to formalize the semantic difference with formal logic, ontology or other methods without formalizing the context and the speaker's intent.)
    Sometimes they have great morphological difference, sometimes they don't.
    When they are interchangeable in the same context, their function in the context are the same. So it's not 用药 functions as both noun or verb, but both the noun 用药 and verb 用药 (if they really exist) share the same function in this structure.

    Yes, it's redundant semantically, but required in form. 得 usually follows a verb or a particle intermediately.
    Thinking every combination of verb and noun is a fixed expression may seem stupid, but can really make your life much easier, according to my experience of studying Japanese.
    And this structure is quite common. Many dictionary will list them.
    Sometimes the two characters are separable(离合词), sometimes are not. Sometimes, they have totally different meaning when they are separated.
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2013
  30. kyrintethron Senior Member

    English - America

    This is actually very helpful, and now that I'm understanding this more, the additional verb makes sense.

    他用药得很特别 highlights his use/usage/method as special.
    用药很特别 highlights his medicine as special.
    药用得很特别 highlights his practice/prescription of medicine as special.

    I feel silly, because zhg explained this to me three days ago, but I just couldn't get it, lol. Now that I've got all my grammarian ducks in a row, it's clear as day to me. The question I have now is why do you, YangMuye, prefer 他用药很特别 over 他用药用的很特别? Is it because of it's brevity (why say something longer when you can say it shorter)? Or is it because the former describes his personal practice of medicine as special where as the latter seems to describe his approach to the practice/practicing of medicine as special?

    Btw, grammatically and with finality, don't we have to declare that 用药 in our original sentence, 那个医生用药很特别, is a noun because there is no 得 after it? If it were a verb, that would be required, right? (And I know the idea being conveyed would essentially be the same, but the linguist in me is curious about the morphology. :-D)

    This is getting fun now, and I'm wanting to experiment a bit. Would 大麻的用药 or 大麻用药 be a method of treatment or "doctoring" specifically tailored around the use of marijuana to treat patients?

    This has been incredibly helpful. After I posted my message and re-read it, I realized that I meant to 他写字很好 without the erroneous 得 between the subject and complement. Is this well-formed?

    This confuses me, and I'm afraid I won't understand without examples. What are some situations where 用药 grammatically serves as a regular noun but 写字 is forbidden from doing so?

    But that is precisely the problem I'm seeing. If 很快 is an adjective, then 发展 must be a noun, right? Moreover, if 发展 is a verb, shouldn't the sentence require a 得: 上海发展很快? For that reason, I thought 发展 must be a noun. And even if it requires a 的 (上海的发展) to make it possessive, couldn't 上海 instead be seen as a topic rather than the possessor of the subject: "(In) Shanghai, development is/has been rapid"?


    No, no, no! This has been an excellent answer! Exactly what I was looking for. My only remaining questions are:

    1) Is 的 only needed with inanimate objects taking gerund-like objects? or is it needed with all "possessed" nouns?
    2) Does this rule apply to non-human animate objects, like animals and space aliens? Does it apply to animate non-lifeforms, like robots, ghosts, gods and golems?

    Sorry to be getting nerdy, but I figured I may as well cover my bases while I have your ear, lol.

    I see your point here, and again, semantically, it doesn't really matter what part of speech 用药 it is. But grammatically, however, it does matter. For instance, 他用药很特别 is grammatically acceptable, and, correct me if I'm wrong, 他用药很特别 is not, forbidding 用药 from being seen grammatically as a verb, even if semantically, one chooses to interpret the sentence in such a way that it functions like one. Moreover, even when trying to use 用药 as a verb (Skatinginbc's example, 他很特别用药), you not only change the meaning of the sentence, but I'd argue that you're not even using 用药 as a compound anymore (他[subject]很特别[adverb]地[adverbial particle]用[verb]药[object])...again, please correct me if I'm wrong.

    Going all the way back, when goodatchinese pointed out that 用药 means "to take medicine", it seems that for simplicity, the compound was identified and declared as a verb. But if I'm looking at it correctly, in a sentence like 我用药, it's really 我(subject)用(verb)药(object), and that you can't make a statement like "I take special medicine" or "I take good medicine" without breaking up the "compound". However, 用药 as a verbal noun has a definition that is "more than the sum of its parts", and cannot maintain it's idea of "using/practicing medicine" or "prescribing" if 用 and 药 separated...unless this is totally incorrect, lol. It makes sense from what I know so far.

    That being said, the importance of understanding a word's grammatical part of speech (for any given definition, I should note) is important, so that you know what you can and can't do with it in a language. This is why I protest that ご飯 and 勉強 can't be verbs. They have no individual conjugations following any rules of Japanese grammar, and thusly such nouns need auxiliary verbs, like する, to convey their ideas in a verbal manner. ご飯 doesn't even get to participate in this mode.

    As for 食べ、見、and the other 連用形, they fall into a Japanese-specific part of speech that is neither verb nor noun. The time for their usage is specific to the suffixes affixed to them (ている、に行く、etc.). And though に行く appears to require a diverse rule set, it seems (at least to me), to function in a 連用形+に行く format, where し (from する and the サ変動詞) is frequently dropped, leaving us with phrases like 勉強に行く which looks like 名詞+に行く, but isn't really.

    As for 映画に行く, at first glance, I attributed this to a truncated form of 映画を見に行く, but actually seems to be more of a truncated form of 映画館に行く, where 映画 substitutes for "movie theatre" the same way we say "let's go to the movies" in English, with the implication that we are going to the theatre.

    And ご飯に行く seems to be a special, exceptional colloquialism that doesn't follow the rule, as happens in language from time to time. Either that, or a linguistic evolution of terms, with the full explanation hidden away in a textbook somewhere, lol.

    Okay, I think I get this now and am okay with it. For speculation's sake, if I were traveling in China and someone was expressing this idea to me, how likely would I be to hear 他用药用得很特别 as opposed to 他用药很特别?

    I asked this above, but with a post this long, why not be repetitive, lol. Is 他写字很好 without the 得 grammatically sound?

  31. zhg Senior Member

    Honestly I don't know if we have topic-comment structure in Chinese, I would really appreciate if someone can shed me some light on this.
    As for your doubt about 很快,I would say it is used as a verb complement and is equivalent to 得很快 in the sentence, though I have to admit that sometimes the omission would make sentences sound Taiwanish,like 吃很快,跳很高 ,跑很快etc.
  32. Skatinginbc

    Skatinginbc Senior Member

    Mandarin 國語
    "Examples of topic-prominent languages include East Asian languages such as the Chinese languages..."; "they often have sentences with so-called double subjects, actually a topic plus a subject" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Topic-prominent_language).
    There are too many topics going on at once in this thread already :p.
    My final response: 上海(topic)发展(subject)很快(predicate), rather than (上海的发展)subject(很快)predicate, seems to be the underlying syntax. However, to determine whether it is truly a topic or merely a subject with an ellipsed 的, we have to look at the discourse-level, not a sentential level (see Post #40).
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2013
  33. kyrintethron Senior Member

    English - America
    Well, what reconciles this for me is that "Shanghai has developed rapidly" and "(In) Shanghai, development has been rapid" are practically the same semantically. And everything I've learned in this thread is screaming out that 发展 has to be a noun. And I have to ask, would mainlanders say 吃很快,跳很高,and 跑很快? or would you more likely hear the proper (or what I assume is proper) 吃很快,跳很高,and 跑很快?

    Awesome, it's nice to be understanding these things now. I appreciate all your input in this thread, and your insights will be missed. 谢谢你!
    But zhg, as you said earlier, 的 can't be omitted when the possessor is an inanimate object (or does that only apply with gerunds), right?


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