Zhang Daqiu (Shanghai University of Finance and Economics, China; Tallinn University) “Is xìng in the Question nín guì xìng a Verb in Mandarin Chinese?”


The honourable manner in asking for name or age in Chinese seems just to achieve a pragmatic purpose, but with a more careful scrutiny we can find it has left more questions unanswered, grammatical in particular: Why xìng functions as a verb? If it is a verb, is it a transitive or an intransitive? If it is a transitive, then where is the wh-object? If it is an intransitive, then why does the answer to it take an object of any surname? This paper argues that the xìng is actually a noun in the lexicon, honourably modified by an adjective. The question is actually a shortened one with the wh-question word unspelt. Similar examples include: Nín guìgēng? Nín gāoshòu? My interpretation is that (1) due to the habitual deletion of question particles like ma in Yes-No questions in classic Chinese (chī guò-le (ma)?), it is possible to delete the high frequent wh-word in wh-questions, especially in honourable manner with guì. (2) The answer to the question (Miǎn guì, xìng Zhāng) seems to be taking xìng as a transitive verb, but I argue that it is false. It is just because BE is covert in the main clause, which should be xìng (BE) Zhāng. The support comes from a complete answer like (Miǎn guì, (wǒ) xìng (BE) Zhāng, míng (jiào) Dáqiú). This deletion of copular BE in Chinese is quite popular and habitual even in Mandarin Chinese today.