Quest for the essence of Chinese grammar

James H-Y. Tai

Abstract:Some key issues in the analysis of Chinese grammars in the past five decades are identified and discussed from typological perspectives. They include 1) the wordhood in「字」and 「詞」, and word formation; 2) parts of speech; 3) syntactic pivots (topic, subject, and object); 4) active vs. passive voice; 5) cognitive principles of word order; 6) SOV vs. SVO. Typological characterizations of Chinese are also summarized, pointing to the importance of understanding Chinese from perspectives of creole and sign language. Mental lexicon of「字」,「詞」and four-character idioms should be constructed with syntactic structures for the processing of reading Chinese.