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New Post 6/28/2012 1:11 PM
  ChineseTime
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Grammatical Units 
Modified By ChineseTime  on 6/28/2012 1:12:54 PM)

Grammatical Units in modern Chinese grammar are classified as: morpheme, word, phrase and sentence, their relationship are displayed in the diagram below.
Let's look at each unit in more details:

1. Morpheme - 语素

Morpheme is the smallest meaningful unit in a language, it makes up the words.

Most of the morphemes in modern Chinese grammar are monosyllabic.

For example:

好(hǎo)  ( good),  小(xiǎo)  ( small ), 站(zhàn)  ( stand ),  来(lái)  ( come ), 去(qù)   ( go),写(xiě)   ( write )

Some morphemes are polysyllabic.

For example:

葡(pú)  萄(táo)  ( grape ),  蚂(má) 蚁(yǐ)  ( ant ),  议(yì) 会(huì)  ( Parliament ),  紧(jǐn) 张(zhāng) ( nervous )

In the case of 葡萄, ' 葡 ' is meaningless when it is separated from ' 萄', the same with '萄'. They mean ' grape ' only when they are combined together.

With Polysyllabic Morphemes, each single syllable is meaningless. Only when two or more syllables are combined together can they represent a certain concepts, to make either a morpheme or a word.

2. Word - 词

In modern Chinese grammar a word is the smallest unit that can be used independently in a sentence. Depending on the syllable numbers a word has, it can be divided into three groups:

Monosyllabic words: a word that has only one syllable.

For example: 蛇(shé)  ( snake ), 北(běi)  ( north ), 高(gāo) ( tall ), 停(tíng) ( stop )

Disyllabic words: a word that has two syllables.

For example:  北(běi) 京(jīng) ( Beijing ),  美(měi) 丽(lì) ( beauty ), 长(cháng) 城(chéng)  ( Great Wall )

Polysyllabic words: the word that has 3 or more syllables, it includes:

Triple: 收(shōu) 音(yīn) 机(jī)  ( radio ), 电(diàn) 视(shì) 机(jī) ( television ), 沙(shā) 发(fā) 床(chuáng)  ( sofa bed )

Quadruple: 广(guǎng) 播(bō) 电(diàn) 台(tái)  ( radio station ), 共(gòng) 产(chǎn) 主(zhǔ) 义(yì)  ( Communist )

Quintuple and more: 文(wén) 化(huà) 大(dà) 革(gé) 命(mìng)  ( Culture Revolution ), 社(shè) 区(qū) 开(kāi) 发(fā) 计(jì) 划(huà)  ( Community Development Project)

In modern Chinese, more than 70 percent of words are disyllabic words.

3. Phrase - 短语

In modern Chinese grammar, a phrase is a combination of two or more words according to certain grammatical rules.

For example:

公(gōng) 众(zhòng) 卫(wèi) 生(shēng)  ( community health ), 保(bǎo) 健(jiàn) 食(shí) 品(pǐn)  ( health food )

4. Sentence - 句子

Sentence is a the grammatical unit that is used to express a complete idea. It usually has a certain intonation and a pause at the end.

It is the intonation and mood instead of the numbers of syllables that classify sentence from word and phrase. Some words and phrases can make sentences if they are used to express a complete idea and with certain mood and intonation.

Same as in English, punctuation symbols like ' ? ' or ' ! ' are used at the end of the sentences in written Chinese to express the pause and different moods.

For example:

你(nǐ) 好(hǎo) 吗(ma) ? ( How do you do? )

站(zhàn) 住(zhù) ! ( Halt! )

我(wǒ) 喜(xǐ) 欢(huan) 学(xué) 中(zhōng) 文(wén). ( I like study Chinese. )

 

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