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Chinese Sentence Structure – Chinese Grammar Simplified 101 – YouTube

This video is not particularly well made, however it does illustrate an important point of Chinese grammar and also gives some indication why Chomsky argued for generative grammar, yet at the same moment refutes generative grammar.

One generally observes in all languages the grammar pattern:
Subject-Verb-Object for declarative sentences
(Subject)-Verb-(Object) for imperative sentences
Verb-Subject-Object for interrogative sentences.

However, these patterns, though they do occur generally are not universally observed. Passive voice for example allows an inversion of object-verb-subject. Passive voice appears to exist in all observed languages which I know. Heavily inflected languages are the least bound by SVO convention and inflections enable any of the six possibilities of SVO SOV VSO VOS OSV OVS to be formed.

Even if SVO were universal – and it is not – it is riddled with exceptions and qualifications. Do indirect/dative objects appear before or after direct/accusative/partitive objects? Is the language inflected or not? What about time and manner, do they appear before or after the object? Time and manner do appear to generally occur in that order, but that order may be varied for emphasis or poetic effect.

There are so many obvious variations among languages that the idea of a universal generative grammar, though tempting due to the genetic bottlenecks in human history, is empirically false. The take home message of this video is that Chinese grammar, unlike English, tends to be organized as
STPVO

Subject-Time-Place-Verb-Object.

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