Aspect, tense and mood : Context dependency and the marker LE in Mandarin Chinese

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (monograph)

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The grammatical marker LE in Mandarin Chinese can occur in two syntactic positions, either immediately following the verb or at the end of a sentence. Traditionally, it has been described as two homophonous but syntactically distinct morphemes, verbal LE and sentence-final LE. This view seems to be based on assumptions about (1) the historical origin of LE, (2) the relation between LE and its counterparts in other Chinese dialects and (3) the relevance of the syntactic position of LE for its function in a sentence. The main part of this thesis is dedicated to analysing the third assumption: that the meaning of LE is related to its syntactic position. By using examples from narrative texts I show that the conventional definition of verbal LE as a marker of the perfective aspect and that of sentence-final LE as a modal particle or a marker of the perfect aspect cannot properly describe all instances of each marker. I also demonstrate that there are several examples of functional overlapping between verbal LE and sentence-final LE. The failure by earlier analyses to account for these facts seems to be partly due to certain metaphorical and vague definitions of aspect as opposed to the clear, time-relational definition of tense. Another influential factor appears to be the assumption that in Chinese, there is a one-to-one relationship between the semantic categories aspect, tense and mood on one hand and grammatical morphemes on the other. My study is an attempt to a unified treatment of LE within a relevance-theoretic framework in which LE is redefined as a pragmatic marker with a semantic core feature [boundary]. Hopefully, it presents an interpretation model that explains not only all the various uses of LE but also the empirical evidence of shared functions between what has traditionally been assumed to be two distinct morphemes.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Chinese Studies
  • [unknown], [unknown], Supervisor, External person
Award date2003 Jan 1
ISBN (Print)91-628-5623-5
Publication statusPublished - 2003

Bibliographical note

Defence details

Date: 2003-01-01
Time: 10:15
Place: N/A

External reviewer(s)

Name: Haihua, Pan
Title: Ass. Prof.
Affiliation: Department of Chinese, translation and linguistics, City University, Hong Kong


Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • History and Archaeology

Free keywords

  • Chinese
  • Languages and literatures of South and South-East Asia
  • Kinesiska och språk och litteratur från Syd- och Sydostasien
  • pragmatics
  • marker
  • semantics
  • temporality
  • Relevance Theory
  • tense
  • mood
  • Mandarin Chinese
  • aspect


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