On the syntax of two correlative constructions in Mandarin Chinese

TitreOn the syntax of two correlative constructions in Mandarin Chinese
Publication TypeCommunication
Année de publication2015
AuthorsLin, Ting-shiu
Titre de la conférenceThe 10th International Workshop on Theoretical East Asian Linguistics
Date de publication06/2015

      This paper investigates the syntactic structures of two correlative constructions in Mandarin: “yòuyòu…” and “yìbiān yìbiān…” Both of them correlate only predicates. “Yòuyòu…” describes coexisting qualities of an entity (1-a) or actions occurring in the same time frame (1-b). “Yìbiān yìbiān…” expresses the simultaneity of two actions (2). 

(1) a. yòu      měilì     yòu   cōngmíng                           

         again beautiful again   smart                                    

         ‘beautiful and smart’                                                

     b. yòu      xǐ       yīfu      yòu     zuò   wǎnfàn.

         again wash clothes  again  make  dinner

         ‘do the laundry and make the dinner.’

(2) yìbiān       xǐ      yīfu      yìbiān     zuò   wǎnfàn.

     one-side wash clothes one-side make  dinner   

     ‘make the dinner while doing the laundry.’

      These two constructions are considered coordinate structures in the literature (Chao, 1968; Zhang, 2008; Xing, 2003). Zhang (2008) further compares them to correlative coordinations in Germanic languages, arguing that the first correlator is a focus particle while the second one functions as a coordinator. Contrary to these views, we argue that while “yòuyòu…” is indeed a coordination, “yìbiānyìbiān…” is not. Moreover, the structure of “yòuyòu…” is different from that of correlative coordinations in Germanic languages.

1. “Yòuyòu…” constitutes coordinate structures while “yìbiānyìbiān…” forms adjunct-head relationships between the predicates that it connects.

      No element can be extracted from either predicate in “yòuyòu…” sentences (3-a, 3-b, 4-a, 4-b) or from the first predicate of “yìbiānyìbiān…” (3-d, 4-d). However, extractions from the second predicate of “yìbiānyìbiān…” are allowed (3-c, 4-c). In addition, in some contexts, “yìbiān Pred.1” can appear before the subject (5) while no context allows “yòu Pred.1” to move to the beginning of a sentence. In other words, “yòuyòu…” observes Coordinate Structure Constraint while “yìbiānyìbiān…” shows Adjunct Island effects.

(3) a. *Mǎlì   yòu       xǐ       yīfu      yòu    zuò   ei    de    nà    dùn   wǎnfàni

          Mary  again  wash clothes  again  make       Rel. that   Cl.    dinner

      b. *Mǎlì   yòu       xǐ    ei    yòu     zuò    wǎnfàn   de    nà     xiē      yīfui

          Mary  again   wash      again  make   dinner   Rel. that  some  clothes

     c. Mǎlì    yìbiān       xǐ      yīfu       yìbiān      zuò    ei    de    nà   dùn  

         Mary one-side  wash clothes  one-side  make        Rel.  that   Cl.  



         ‘The dinner that Mary made while doing the laundry...’

      d. *Mǎlì    yìbiān       xǐ     ei    yìbiān     zuò   wǎnfàn   de     nà     xiē     

           Mary  one-side  wash      one-side  make  dinner   Rel.  that  some  



(4) a. *Jīntiān  de  wǎnfàni  shì   Mǎlì    yòu     xǐ      yīfu       yòu      zuò   ei  de.

          Today  Gen.  dinner   be   Mary  again wash clothes  again   make     DE

      b. *Jīntiān  de     yīfui   shì   Mǎlì    yòu       xǐ    ei  yòu    zuò    wǎnfàn  de.

         Today    Gen. clothes be  Mary  again   wash    again  make   dinner  DE

      c. Jīntiān  de   wǎnfàni   shì  Mǎlì   yìbiān        xǐ       yīfu      yìbiān  

         Today   Gen.  dinner    be  Mary one-side  wash clothes  one-side

         zuò   ei   de.

         make      DE

         ‘Today’s dinner was made by Mary while she did the laundry.’

d. *Jīntiān  de     yīfui   shì   Mǎlì    yìbiān      xǐ    ei    yìbiān    zuò   wǎnfàn de

     Today  Gen. clothes be  Mary  one-side wash     one-side make  dinner DE

(5) Yìbiān    zǒu,   tā  yìbiān   yòng quán qīng   qiāo   zìjǐ   de     tóu.

     one-side walk, he one-side use   fist  lightly knock self Gen. head

    ‘While walking, he gently knocked his head with a fist.’ (Laoshe “Looking at

    Chang’an” )

2. “Yòuyòu…” is a simple coordinate structure formed by two identical adverbs instead of a correlative coordination composed of a focus particle and a coordinator.

      Unlike “and” or “or,” a single “yòu” does not have the function of a coordinator. It is simply an adverb that marks the accumulation of events or properties (Biq, 1988). “Yòu” can appear with both the conjunction “érqiě” ‘and’ (6-a) and the subordinator “zhīhòu” ‘after’ (6-b), which shows that it constitutes neither coordinate nor subordinate relationships between the elements that it links. In contrast, “and,” as a coordinator, is not compatible with any subordinator (7), nor is “yòuyòu…” (6-c). In addition, the first “yòu” of “yòuyòu…” should not be analyzed as a focus or restrictive particle such as “even” or “only.” The position of the first “yòu” is rather fixed— it should stays right in front of the first conjunct (8) and does not “float” as freely as “both” or “either” in correlative coordinations of Germanic languages (Johannessen, 2005; Zhang, 2008) (9). On the contrary, the restrictive adverb “zhǐ” ‘only’ can appear at different preverbal positions and creates scope effects (10), just as “only” in English.  

(6) a. Tā         xǐ-le       wǎn,  (érqiě) yòu    tuō-le        dì.

         s/he wash-Acp. dishes,  and  again mop-Acp. floor

         ‘S/he washed the dishes, and mopped the floor, too.’

      b. Tā         xǐ-le       wǎn  (zhīhòu), yòu     tuō-le       dì.

          s/he wash-Acp. dishes   after,   again mop-Acp. floor

          ‘After washing the dishes, s/he mopped the floor, too.’

      c. Tā       yòu        xǐ-le       wǎn (*zhīhòu),  yòu    tuō-le        dì.

          s/he   again wash-Acp. dishes   after,   again mop-Acp. floor

(7) (*After/*Before/*When) she washed the dishes and mopped the floor.

(8) a. Tā    xiǎng yòu    kàn     diànshì     yòu  wán  yóuxì.

          s/he want again watch television again play games

          ‘S/he wants to watch TV and also play video games.’

      b. Tā     yòu   xiǎng kàn     diànshì     yòu *(xiǎng) wán yóuxì.

          s/he again want watch television again   want   play games

(9) Max wants to eat either grapes or cherries. / Max wants to either eat grapes or cherries. /

Max either wants to eat grapes, or cherries. (Examples from Zhang, 2008)

(10) a. Tā   xiǎng  zhǐ   kàn     diànshì.        b. Tā      zhǐ   xiǎng    kàn   diànshì.

           s/he want  only watch television           s/he   only  want   watch    TV

           ‘S/he wants to watch TV only.’             ‘S/he only wants to watch TV.’

      In conclusion, not all correlative constructions in Chinese are correlative coordinations similar to those in Germanic languages. “Yìbiānyìbiān…” forms VP adjunctions, and “yòuyòu…” is a simple coordinate structure made up of two identical adverbs. Our findings improve the current understandings of coordinate structures in Chinese.


Biq, Y.-O. (1988). From objectivity to subjectivity: The text-building function of you in Chinese. Studies in Language, 12(1), 99-122.

Chao, Y. R. (1968). A Grammar of Spoken Chinese. Berkeley; Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press.

Johannessen, J. B. (2005). The syntax of correlative adverbs. Lingua, 115, 419-443.

邢福义 [Xing, Fu-Yi] (2001)。汉语复句研究 [Study on Complex Sentences of Mandarin Chinese]。北京:商务印书馆 [Peking: The Commercial Press]。

Zhang, N. N. (2008). Repetitive and correlative coordinators as focus particles parasitic on coordinators. SKY Journal of Linguistics, 21, 295-342.