The relationships between processes and participants in Chinese: A cognitive approach
Lamb, Sydney M.
Doctor of Philosophy
This thesis investigates the knowledge which Chinese speakers must have that enables them to produce and comprehend Chinese sentences because grammatically Chinese provides little formal marking for syntactic functions such as subject, object, etc. and participant roles such as agent, patient, etc. The present work also presents a model for the representation of such knowledge. Using a cognitive approach which stresses the knowledge of users and the conceptual structures of the linguistic system, this study argues that Chinese speakers must know the conceptual relationships between processes and participants when processing Chinese sentences. Three types of knowledge are posited for the understanding of these relationships: knowledge about the world, linguistic knowledge, and pragmatic knowledge. A classification of Chinese conceptual processes is done according to the conceptual criterion PERIODICITY. Four basic types of conceptual processes are derived: State, Status, Action and Event, each of which corresponds to some syntactic properties and a different type of conceptual relationship. The categories of processes and participants have their hierarchical structures which are composed of two types of relationships: subordination and part-whole. Knowledge of these structures enable Chinese speakers to interpret the conceptual relationships. The difference between central participants and peripheral participants lies in the fact that the former are positionally marked, while the latter are usually related by prepositions. The distinction between participants and circumstantials is difficult to maintain since individual processes treat them differently. The participants presupposed by a processes are best regarded as prototypes to account for the metaphorical uses and the exclusion of the non-prototypical instances of a category. Participants are also grouped on the basis of the fixedness of their categories. The conceptual relationships also have their hierarchical structure. At the top level, there are P1, P2 and P3. At the bottom, the relationships vary with each individual process. At the intermediate level, some conceptual roles can be established to capture the similarities of relationships. The types of knowledge investigated in this thesis are presented as entries in a conceptual dictionary.