1902 Encyclopedia > China > Chinese Grammar (cont.) - Gender; Number; Case; Degrees of Comparison.

(Part 40)


Chinese Grammar (cont.) - Gender; Number; Case; Degrees of Comparison.


As might be expected from the nature of the language of which this interchageability forms a part, Chinese admits no variations of gender, and in this particular it agrees no variations of gender, and in this particular it agrees with the Manchoo, Mongolian, Turkish, and Finnish families of tongues, in which as Dr Caldwell points out, not only are all things which are destitute of reason and life denoted by neuter nouns, but no nouns whatever, not even nouns which denote human beings, are regarded in themselves as being masculine or feminine. All nouns as such are neuter, or rather are destitute of gender." "The uninmaginative Scythian reduced all things," adds the doctor, "whether rational or irrational, inanimate, to the same dead level, and regarded them all as impersonal." But in every language there are certain words the gender of which must necessarily be distinguished, and in common also with the peoples just referred to, to these the Chinese prefix words denoting sex. Thus a son is spoken of as _____ nan tsze or "man-child," and a daughter as _____ neu tsze or "woman-child." In the case of animals other characters are used. _____ kung, "noble," "superior," is employed to denote the male and _____ moo, "mother," to indicate the female. Thus _____ kung ma is "a horse," and _____ moo ma is "a mare." With birds other characters are considered more appropriate. Thus, the male is described as kung, "martial" or "brave," and the female as tsze , "weak," or "inferior."


As regards number, Chinese is left in an equally indefinite condition. As a rule it is the connection of the words of the sentence which determines whether a noun is in the singular or plural. Often, however, the plural is indicated by repeating the noun, as _____ jin jin, " the men," or by the presence of a numeral, as in the following expression, taken from the Confucian Analects, _____ "The three disciples went out," Here the character san, "three," indicates that tsze is in the plural, although it has no inherent mark of number. Another way of pluralizing a noun is by adding to it one of certain words signifying "all" or "many." The most common of these are _____ chung, _____ choo, _____, keae, _____, fan, and _____ t&Mac178;ng. The first four have for their meaning "all," and the last, tang, means "a class." Its use, like its meaning, is distinct from the others ; they precede the noun, tang always follows it, and forms with it a compound such as "animal-class" for animal, "man-class" for men. In colloquial Chinese the character _____ mun has been adopted as a sign of the plural, but its use is almost entirely confined to the personal pronouns. Thus _____ wo means "I," and _____ wo mun "we."


The rules of position which serve to fix the parts of speech of the words of a sentence are allowed also in great measure to regulate the cases of nouns and the moods and tenses of verbs. But this is by no means always the case. For example, the possessive case is marked by certain particles of which mention will be made presently ; and although European writers on Chinese grammar have been in the habit of considering that when two substantives come together, the first is to be taken as being in the possessive case, thus in the sentence _____ Teen tsze hao heo, which we should translate as "the Son of heaven loves learning," teen, they would say, is in the possessive case,—it may be questioned whether such expressions may not be more appropriately considered as compound terms, in the same way, that we treat their equivalents in English. For instance, we should never consider such an expression as "the Chelsea-water-works" to consist of a nominative and two possessive cases, as it would be parsed by these grammarians, were it turned word for word, as it might be, into Chinese. And this treatment becomes still more difficult of adoption when we find, as is often the case in Chinese, a number of substantives strung together, all of which, with the exception of the last, would then have to be considered as a succession of possessive cases. If we take, for example, one of the ordinary marks on porcelain made in China, such as ordinary marks on porcelain made in China, such as _____ Ta ming Wan le—h san neen che, we should be told to consider Ta ming, Wan le—h, and neen, as possessive cases, and that the phrase should be translated, "The manufacture of the third year of (the reign) Wan-le—h of the Ta ming dynasty," instead of treating it as a compound expression on the "Chelsea-water-works" principle, thus "The Ta-ming-dynasty-Wan-le—h-third-year-manufacture."

Besides, Chinese is by no means destitute of case-particles. In the literary and colloquial languages the possessive is expressed by suffixing respectively _____ che and _____ te—h to the substantive. Thus these particles answer exactly to the ’s commonly used in English. _____ Teen che gan is " The favour of heaven," or, as we should as often say, "heaven’s favour." _____ Na ko neu jin te—h kow is "The dog of that woman," or "That woman’s dog." If we trace back the case-particle _____ che to its earliest use, we find that it was originally a verb, and meant "to proceed to," and thus, as a sign of the possessive case, it implies the sense of partition which is inherent in our "of" and the French de. In some instances, by its addition to certain substantives, compound nouns of possession are formed which are capable of being used as adjectives. For example, _____ kin is "gold," and _____ is "of gold," or "golden." It is used also to express relation, but not as frequently as its colloquial equivalent _____ te—h, which is very commonly thus employed. Such expressions as _____ kwan ping te—h,—te—h, "he who," kwan, "rules over, ping, "soldiers"—are in constant use.

With verbs of giving to and speaking to the dative case is marked by position The person to whom a thing is given immediately follows the verb, and the thing given comes next. The sentence "The prince gave the officer some money," is in accordance "The prince gave the officer some money," is in accordance withteh Chinese idiom, which would not admit the more usual English form, "The prince gave some money to the officer." The dative case, with the sense of "for," is marked by the use of the characters _____ tae, "to succeed," _____ te, "to put another instead of," and _____ wei, "to be" ; thus _____ tae wo seay shoo, "to write a letter for me," _____ te wo teih neu urh, "for my daughter," &c.

The accusative case is as a rule marked by position. But occasionally, as has been shown by M. Julien, the particles _____ e, _____ yu, and _____ hoo, are disassociated from their usual signification, and are employed simply as signs of this case.

The instrumental case is indicated by the character _____ e, "by," in the language of the books, and by _____ yung, "to use," in the colloquial. As an instance of the use of the first, we may quote the following passage from Mencius :— _____ Nan wang e fei ke taou, "(A superior man) cannot be entrapped by that which is contrary to right principles.

The ablative case, having the sense of "from," is marked by the signs _____ tsze, and _____ yew, and in the colloquial by _____ tsung, as in the following examples :— _____ Tsze sang min e lae, "From the birth of mankind until now ;" _____ Yew Tang che yu Woo-ting," From Tang until you arrive at Woo-ting ;" _____ Ta tsung P—h king lae leaou, "He has come from Peking."

Degrees of Comparison

The remarks which have been made on the gender, number, and case of the substantives apply in like manner to the adjectives, and we need only refer therefore to the manner in which degrees of comparison are formed. The comparative is denoted either by certain particles meaning "more than," or "beyond," or in the colloquial by forms of expression such as "This man compared with that man is good," or again, "This man has not that man’s goodness." As signs of the superlative, words such as _____ tsuy, "excelling," _____ keih, "the highest point," or _____ shin, "exceeding" are employed.

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