Chapter 5:Chinese Nouns

Updated:Sat, Oct 20, 2012 21:12 PM     Related:Chinese nouns

In this chapter we introduce Chinese nouns including common Chinese nouns, Chinese pronouns and reflexive pronoun 自己, inclusive pronoun, possession involving pronouns and Chinese proper nouns.

 

In Mandarin, the same form of the noun is used in subject and object position.

Subject

猫吃鱼 Māo chī yú. Cats eat fish. (or) The cat eats fish.

他学中文 Tā xué Zhōngwén. He studies Chinese.

Object

我养猫 Wǒ yǎng māo. I raise cat /cats.

我喜欢他 Wǒ xǐhuan tē. I like him.

With the exception of the written form of the third person pronoun, tp (see below),

Mandarin nouns are not marked for gender, and there is not the distinction between masculine, feminine and neuter found in many European languages. The properties of Mandarin nouns are described here.

1. Common nouns

Most nouns are common nouns. Their referents may be concrete (纸 zhǐ ‘paper,’ 桌子 zhuōzi ‘table,’ 水 shuǐ ‘water’) or abstract ( 思想 srxiǎng ‘thought,’ 原则 yuánzé ‘principle,’ 自由 zìyóu ‘freedom’). Mandarin makes no grammatical distinction between ‘mass’ and ‘count’ nouns.

Mandarin common nouns have a single, invariant form. They do not reflect number, and the same form of the noun is used whether the noun is singular or plural. When no number is used with a noun, the noun is understood to be neither singular nor plural, but simply unspecified for number. In addition, nouns that occur without any modifiers or descriptions have a general rather than a specific reference. For example, 书 shū refers to ‘book’ in general and not to any specific book.

When it is necessary to indicate the number of a noun, the noun is modified by a number + classifier phrase. The classifier is required after the number. Number + noun without an intervening classifier is ungrammatical. Compare the following:

Say this

一本书 yì běn shūone book

Not this

一书 yì shū

Say this

三个人 sān gè rén three people

Not this

三人 sān rén

when a specifier 这 zhèI zhèi ‘this/these,’ nà, nèi ‘that/those,’ or the question

specifier nk, nli ‘which’ modifies the noun, it also must be followed by a classifier or

number + classifier. If the number is one, the number may be omitted.

这(一)本书 那两本书 哪三本书?
zhè  (yì)  bln  sht nà  likng  bln  sht nkspn  bln  sht?
this book those two books which three books?

A small number of common nouns referring to people can be suffixed by –们 men, the suffix that also marks the plural form of pronouns (see section 2. below).

同志们 tóngzhìmen comrades
孩子们 háizimen children
学生们 xuéshengmen students

This use of - 们 men with common nouns is relatively rare. It conveys a sense of inclusion and is sometimes used when addressing an audience.

同学们,今天我们听马老师作报告。

Tóngxuémen, jīntiān wǒmen tìng Mǎ lǎoshī zuò bàogào.

Fellow students, today we are going to listen to a report by teacher Ma.

When a noun is suffixed with 们 men it cannot be further modified with any kind of modifying phrase, including a number  classifier phrase.

Say this: 我们的同学 wnmen de tóngxué our fellow students

Not this:我们的同学们 wnmen de tóngxuémen

Say this:三个孩子 sān gè háizi three children

Not this:sān gè háizimen

2. Chinese Pronouns

Mandarin has first, second, and third person pronouns and has a reflexive pronoun.

Mandarin pronouns have the following properties:

• Pronouns are not distinguished in terms of grammatical role. The same pronouns are used for subject, object, possession, etc.

• Pronouns have singular and plural forms. The suffix - 们 men is added to the singular form to make it the plural form.

• Gender is not reflected in the spoken language. The written language has distinctions for the second and third person pronouns, though only the third person gender distinction is commonly used.

  Singlar Plural
Firstperson 我 wǒ

I/me
我们 wǒmen

we/us (exclusive or neutral)

咱们 zánmen

we (inclusive)
Second person 你nǐ(masculine or neutral)

妳nǐ (feminine)

you
你们nǐmen

you
Thirdperson 他 tā(masculine or neutral)

她 tā(feminine)

它 tā(non-human or inanimate)
他们 tāmen(masculine or non-specific for gender)

她们tāmen(feminine) tāmen (feminine)

they/them
Reflexive 自己 zìjǐ

self
 

2.1 The Chinese reflexive pronoun zìjǐ ‘self’

Mandarin Chinese has only one reflexive pronoun, and it is not marked for person or gender. To indicate person, the reflexive may optionally be preceded by the relevant personal pronoun.

我自己wǒzìjǐ

myself
我们自己wǒmen  zìjǐ

ourselves
你自己nǐzìjǐ

yourself
你们自己nǐmen  zìjǐ

yourselves
他自己/她自己tpzìjǐ

himself, herself
他们自己tāmen  zìjǐ

themselves

zìjǐ ‘self’ is also used without a personal pronoun. When it occurs in object position, it is understood to refer to the subject:

你在中国一定得把自己照顾好。

Nǐ zài Zhōngguó yīdìng děi bā zìjǐ zhàogù hǎo.

When you are in China you certainly should take good care of yourself.

没有人不喜欢自己的。

Méi yǒu rén bù xǐhuan zìjǐ de.

No one doesn’t like him/herself.

zìjǐ ‘self ’ may be used to indicate contrast with another noun phrase or pronoun:

我希望他们结婚,可是我自己不想结婚

Wǒ xīwàng tāmen jiéhūn, kěshì wǒ zìjǐ bù xiǎng jiéhūn.

I hope they will get married, but I myself don’t plan to get married.

这是我自己的事,你不用管。

Zhè shì wǒ zìjǐ de shì. Nǐ bù yòng guǎn.

This is my affair. You need not be concerned with it.

2.2 The inclusive pronoun 咱们 zánmen ‘we’

The inclusive pronoun 咱们 zánmen ‘we’ is used in northern dialects of Mandarin.咱们 zánmen ‘we’ refers to the speaker, other people associated with the speaker, and to the addressee. When a speaker uses咱们 zánmen ‘we’ as the subject, he or she includes you in the remarks.

咱们都是自己人

Zánmen dōu shì zìjǐ rén.

We are all family. (We, including you, are all one family.)

‘Inclusive’ 咱们 zánmen contrasts with an ‘exclusive’ use of ‘we’ that is associated with我们wǒmen. In the exclusive sense, 我们 wǒmen refers to the speaker and others associated with the speaker but not to the addressee.

我们欢迎你。

Wǒmen huānyíng nǐ.

We welcome you.

咱们 zánmen only has the inclusive meaning. In addition,咱们 zánmen is only used as subject, and never as object.

我们 wǒmen can have either inclusive or exclusive meaning and it occurs as subject and object. It is much more commonly used than咱们 zánmen.

2.3 Modification of pronouns

Pronouns represent an entire noun phrase. Therefore, in general, they are not further modified. However, Mandarin has a small number of literary expressions in which the pronoun is modified:

可怜的我 kělián de wǒ

poor me

美丽的她 měilì de tā

pretty her

善良的高老师 shànliáng de Gāo lǎoshī

good hearted professor Gao

2.4 Possession involving pronouns

Mandarin does not have possessive pronouns. The meaning of possessive pronouns is conveyed by pronoun + 的 de.

我的朋友 wǒ de péngyou

my friend

他的小狗 tā de xiáogǒu

his puppy

Here is a table showing the Mandarin equivalent of English possessive pronouns.

Singlar   Plural  
my 我的 wǒ de our 我们 的 wǒmen de

咱们的 zánmen de
your 你的 nǐde your 你们的 nǐmen de
his(hers) 他的(她的)  tāde their 他们的(她们的) tāmen de

Reflexive ones

自己的 zìjǐde    
Interogative whose 谁的 shui de    

3. Proper nouns

Proper nouns include personal names, place names, names of companies, names of schools, etc.

牛津大学 Niújīn Dàxué

Oxford University

伦敦 Lúndūn

London

长城 Chángchéng

The Great Wall

喜马拉雅山脉Xǐmǎlāyǎ shān mài

Himalayan Mountains

Proper nouns, like pronouns, typically occur without additional modification. As is the case with pronouns, Mandarin has a small number of literary expressions in which the proper noun may be modified. Here are some examples.

可爱的王美玲 kě’ài de Wáng Měilíng

Charming Wang Meiling

山清水秀的台湾 shānqīng shuǐxiù de Táiwān

Taiwan of green hills and clear streams --> beautiful Taiwan

地大物博的美国 dìdà wùbó de Měiguó

America vast in territory and rich in resources

 

Source:HugChina

 

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