Aspect and assertion in Mandarin Chinese

Wolfgang Klein, Ping Li, Henriette Hendriks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

118 Scopus citations


Chinese has a number of particles such as le, guo, zai and zhe that add a particular aspectual value to the verb to which they are attached. There have been many characterisations of this value in the literature. In this paper, we review several existing influential accounts of these particles, including those in Li and Thompson (1981), Smith (1991), and Mangione and Li (1993). We argue that all these characterisations are intuitively plausible, but none of them is precise. We propose that these particles serve to mark which part of the sentence's descriptive content is asserted, and that their aspectual value is a consequence of this function. We provide a simple and precise definition of the meanings of le, guoo, zai and zhe in terms of the relationship between topic time and time of situation, and show the consequences of their interaction with different verb expressions within this new framework of interpretation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)723-770
Number of pages48
JournalNatural Language and Linguistic Theory
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 2000

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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