16/07/2005CL 2005, Birmingham 1 Passive constructions in English and Chinese: a corpus-based study Tony McEnery Richard Xiao

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  • Passive constructions in English and Chinese: a corpus-based studyTony McEneryRichard Xiao

    CL 2005, Birmingham

  • Aims and objectivesUsing comparable corpus datato explore passives in written and spoken Englishto explore passives in written and spoken Chineseto contrast passives in the two languages

    CL 2005, Birmingham

  • CorporaEnglishFLOB: ca. one million words, written British English, 500 samples, 15 text categories, 1991-1992BNCdemo: ca. four million words, the demographically sampled component of the BNC (conversational data)ChineseLCMC: ca. one million words, written Mandarin Chinese, 500 samples, 15 text categories, 1991-1992http://www.ling.lancs.ac.uk/corplang/lcmcLDC CallHome Mandarin: ca. 300,000 words, telephone conversations, 120 transcripts of 5-10-minute continuous telephone conversations

    CL 2005, Birmingham

  • Text categories covered FLOB/LCMC

    CL 2005, Birmingham

  • Passives in English (1)Be vs. get-passivesBe-passives occur in both dynamic and stative situationsGet-passives occur only in dynamic situationsGo and get/*be changed!Only be-passives are appropriate in infinitival complementsthey liked to be/*get seen to go to churchBe-passives are predominantly more frequent than get-passives955 vs. 31 instances per 100K words in FLOB/BNCdemoBe-passives are more frequent in writing while get-passives are more frequent in spoken dataNormalised frequencies (per 100K words)Be-passives: 854 in FLOB and 101 in BNCdemoGet-passives: 5 in FLOB and 26 in BNCdemo

    CL 2005, Birmingham

  • Passives in English (2)Long vs. short passives (1)For both be and get-passives, short forms are much more frequent than long forms in written as well as spoken dataShort passives are significantly more common in spoken than written English LL=209.225 for 1 df, p
  • Passives in English (3)Long vs. short passives (2)Get-passives are more likely than be-passives to occur without an agentLL=76.015 for 1 df, p
  • Passives in English (4)Adverbials in be and get-passivesAdverbials are more frequent in be than get-passives17.7% for be-passives and 7% for get-passivesTypes of adverbials are less varied in get than be-passivesTypically they have an intensifying or focusing role in get-passives (Carter and McCarthy 1999: 53)Proportions of be-passives with an adverbial are similar in writing and speech17.3% vs. 19.5% in FLOB and BNCdemoProportion of get-passives with an adverbial is greater in writing than in speech15.2% vs. 6.6% in FLOB and BNCdemo

    CL 2005, Birmingham

  • Passives in English (5)Semantic and pragmatic properties (1)Get-passives are frequently used to indicate speaker attitude towards the events described (typically a negative evaluation) while be-passives do not appear to be used in this way

    CL 2005, Birmingham

  • Passives in English (7)Semantic and pragmatic properties (2)Collocations (L0-R1, z score>3.0, frequency>3) of get-passives are more likely to show an inflictive meaning than be-passivesGet-passive: 46.5% (BNCdemo) and (married in FLOB); be-passive: 27% (BNCdemo) and 8% (FLOB)However, get-passives are NOT necessarily more frequently negative in spoken EnglishNegative instances: FLOB: 45.8%; BNCdemo: 37.3%Exceptionally high co-occurrence frequency of a few neutral verbs, e.g. married , paid , dressed , changed

    CL 2005, Birmingham

  • Passives in English (8)Semantic and pragmatic properties (3)Collocations reveal that get-passives are more informal in style than be-passivesThe get-passive is more restricted in collocations and is likely to co-occur with verbs referring to daily activities and informal expressions (based on BNCdemo)GET - dressed, changed, get weighed, fed (i.e. eat), washed, cleanedGET - pricked, hooked, mixed (up), carried (away), muddled (up), sacked, get kicked (out), stuffed, thrown (out), chucked, pissed, nickedThese verbs are rarely found among the top 100 collocations for the be-passive in BNCdemo

    CL 2005, Birmingham

  • Passives in English (9)Variations across text categoriesBe-passives are over 8 times as frequent in FLOB as in BNCdemoText categories A-J typically show higher proportions of be- passives than K-RIn written genres, official documents (H) and academic prose (J) show exceptionally high proportions of be-passivesBibers (1988) MDA: be-passives (long and short) positively weighted on D5 (abstract vs. non-abstract information)Get passives typically occur in colloquial and informal genresGet-passives are over 5 times as frequent in BNCdemo as in FLOBIn writing, skills/trades/hobbies (E) and humour (R) show exceptionally high proportions of get-passives

    CL 2005, Birmingham

  • Passives in English (10)Syntactic functionsFinite vs. non-finite positionsFinite: predicateNon-finite: adjectival, adverbial, complement, object, subjectEnglish passives are by far the most frequent in the predicate position97% for be-passives and 96% for get-passivesNon-finite formsrelatively common in object and complement positionsRare in the subject positionThe distribution of get-passives across syntactic functions is more balanced than that of be-passives

    CL 2005, Birmingham

  • Passives in Chinese (1)Syntactic vs. lexical passivesSyntactic passivesbei: most frequent and universal passive markergei, jiao, rang: not fully grammaticalised, colloquial and dialectalWei(-agent-)suo: archaic and typically found in formal written genresLexical passives: ai, shou, zaoLexical meanings are inherently passive

    CL 2005, Birmingham

  • Passives in Chinese (2)Long vs. short passivesBei and gei are found in both long (40%, 43%) and short (60%, 57%) passivesWei(-agent-)suo, jiao and rang only occur in long passivesShou and zao are more frequent in short (68%, 63%) than long (32%, 37%) passivesAi typically occurs in short passives (97%)In lexical passives, the agent NPs can be systematically interpreted as attributive modifiers of nominalised verbs, but they cannot in syntactic passivesLong passives tend to be used in speech and colloquial genres while short passives are found in typical written genres such as academic prose (J), official documents (H) and biographies (G)

    CL 2005, Birmingham

  • Passives in Chinese (3)Syntactic functionsMost frequent in the predicate position76% for syntactic passives (bei 74%); 75% for lexical passivesNon-predicate positions: attributive, adverbial, nominal, object, subjectThe attributive use is the second most important syntactic function (14%)Rare in the subject positionNot found as a complement

    CL 2005, Birmingham

  • Passives in Chinese (4)Interaction between passives and aspectChinese passives are closely allied with aspectsyntactic passives convey an aspectual meaning of resultBare passives account for the largest proportions for syntactic (40%) and lexical (78%) passivesPerfective -le is frequent in both syntactic (17%) and lexical (11%) passivesRVCs and resultative de-structure are more common in syntactic passives while bare forms are more frequent in lexical passivesBare verbs are uncommon in syntactic passives, especially when the passive constructions function as predicates

    CL 2005, Birmingham

  • Passives in Chinese (5)Semantic propertiesChinese passives are usually of unfavourable meanings (Chao 1968: 703)Prototypical passive marker bei derived from its main verb usage, meaning suffer (Wang 1957)However, under the influence of Western languages, passives are no longer restricted to verbs with an inflictive meaning in ChineseProportions of negative semantic prosodiesSyntactic: gei (68%), rang (67%), bei (52%), jiao (50%), weisuo (19%)Lexical: ai (100%), zao (100%), shou (65%)Collocations of bei-passives51% negative, 39% neutral, 10% positive

    CL 2005, Birmingham

  • Passives in Chinese (6)Variations across text categoriesPassives are 11 times as frequent in writing than in speechIn writing, passives are most frequent in religious texts (D) and mystery/detective stories (L), but least common in news editorials (C) and official documents (H)Unlike English, Chinese passives are rare in official documents (H) and academic prose (J)Be-passives function to mark objectivity and a formal style but Chinese passives do not have this functionBei-passivesThe contrast in proportions between long and short forms is typically less marked in 5 types of fiction, humour and speechMore frequently negative in news editorials (C), mystery/detective stories (L) and adventure stories (N); predominantly negative in speech; but rarely negative in official documents (H) and academic prose (J)

    CL 2005, Birmingham

  • Contrast (1): FrequenciesPassives are nearly 10 times as frequent in English as in ChineseBe-passives can be used for both stative and dynamic situations whereas Chinese passives can only occur in dynamic eventsChinese passives typically have a negative semantic prosody while English passives (especially be-passives) do notEnglish has a tendency to overuse passives, especially in formal writing (Quirk 1968; Baker 1985) whereas Chinese tends to avoid syntactic passives wherever possible ()

    CL 2005, Birmingham

  • Contrast (2): Long vs. short formsThe agent NP in the long passive follows the passivised verb in English but precedes it in ChineseShort passives are predominant in English while long passives are much more common in ChinesePassives are used in English to avoid mentioning the agentThe agent must normally be spelt out in Chinese passivesBut this constraint has become more relaxed nowadaysWhen it is difficult to spell out the agentPassives are used in EnglishA vague expression such as ren someone and renmen people is often specified instead of using passives in Chinese

    CL 2005, Birmingham

  • Contrast (3): Semantic propertiesChinese