Proposal for BA Thesis
I.Title: A Study on the Differences of Topics and Subjects in English and Chinese
Chinese grammar system, in one sense, is basically an imitation of western grammar systems. But when we put into pratice , many Chinese grammarians have found that the rules of the westernized languages do not hold water. Therefore, many disputes and controversies have arisen,especially the differences of Topics and Subjects in English and Chinese . It is necessary to combine the traditional research on Chinese grammar with the contemporary western theory of grammar, so that it can help our Chinese grammar research joint the mainstream of Linguistics worldwide and bring the two way together---try to find the universal grammar. We believe that, the process in conformity is not always Smooth and pleasant, but the results are supposed to benefit China and the world finally .
III. Literature Review
Subject and topic as two basic concepts in modern Linguistics , their relationship is considered as the crucial research project and heated topic in Linguistics.
1, Subject is originated form the western grammar systems . In general linguistics , many scholars are trying to give a current concept to subject . According to the research on all kinds of languages around the world , Keenan(1976) summerized the grammatical,semantic and textual features that subject has . The following are conclusion Trask(1993:266) made from all kinds of documents including Keenan(1976) (参见石毓智，2001):
Subject is the noun phrase that probably has the most prominent feature in syntactic relation in sentence. Subject has all kinds of features in grammar, syntatics and text , mainly consisting of:
1 Subject represents independent substance;
2 Subject restricts the co-reference in sentence, including pronoun, reflexive pronoun and null anaphor;
3 Subject restricts the agreement in verbs;
4 Subject is the topic with no mark;
5 Subject can be questioned by interrogative pronoun,and also can be focused.
6 Subject is usually lack of morphological markers.
7 Subject is ususlly considered as the actor of unmarked structure.
His conclusion may be more suitable to describe the characters of western languages . Concerning Chinese, part of the descrition fail to reflect the linguistic fact in Chinese. For example, Trask thought that subject is the topic with no mark . He neglected of pragmatic feature of topic . Because we can’t confirm whether the subject is equal to the topic in a single sentence. And he also thought that subject is ususlly considered as the actor of unmarked structure, which is not accord to the fact in our Chinese .As in Chinese , not only actor, but also patient, instrument, timing and location can act as subject in sentence.
2 , In 2001, Shi Yuzhi tried to conclude about the subject ’s characteristers in form in Chinese. His conclusion is as followed :
The form of the subject can be placed both in subordinate clause and sentence.
Subject can be focused.
Subject can be questioned by interrogative pronoun.
And its semantic characters are :
Subject is the actor of behavior act.
Subject is the main body of nature and state.
Shi thought that the main difference butween subject and topic is that subject is the ingredient of grammatical structure while topic belongs to the discourse concept. The former one can be put into sentence and subordinate clause; the latter only can stay in sentence aspect. But his method to distinguish subject to topic seems to be a bit vague.As in Chinese, there is a kind of sentence in unusual order, for example: “书小王看完了”. In Shi’s opinion, that is a topic structure for it can not be placed in a clause. But in fact, it belongs to a classical subject-predicate sentence. “书” is either the subject, or the topic.
3 , Since Zhao Yuanren introduced ‘topoc’ into our grammar study in Chinese , the scholars in Chinese home and abroad keep going with research on topic . Li Na & Thompson are the representatives on this issue. They’ve done a systematic contract to subject and topic. They said that topic means what is about in the sentence while subject is what the verb predicates; topic can not be indefinite and generic but subject can ; topic have to appear at the front of a sentence while subject is allowed to appear in the sentence; there always be a pause between topic with other parts of a sentence.But in Chinese , it is not necessary that the topic appear at the front of a sentence. For example: “老师，这件事让我来处理吧。” In this sentence, “这件事” is the topic ,but it doesn’t appear at the front of a sentence.
4 , It is generally accepted that subject is a concept of syntactic structures while topic belongs to Pragmatics . But Xu Liejiong & Liu Danqing(1998) didn’t . In their thesis, they consider topic as a ingredient of syntactic structures. Just like suject and object , the topic also share a position in a sentence. As an independent ingredient , each of them should has its own position and can not be overlapped. Then, let’s analyze this following sentence “小张不来了。”. “小张” is the subject and topic at the same time. subject and topic have been overlapped, so it doesn’t work to consider topic as an ingredient of syntactic structures.
5 Qu Chengxi(1996), as a specialist of functional grammar, thought that if one only adopt his own theory when he is doing research on Chinese grammal , he will always feel impractical. We should try to appreciate other’s thinkings or even accept them if available and no conflict arisen. And I think his opinion is quite fit to grammar study on Chinese.
IV. Methods and Materials
Through reading materials from library and the Internet, I’ve acknowledged much about subject and topic in Chinese and English and their differences . Many scholars have defined the subject and topic in many different angles, such as the form, cognition,function and so on. I prefer to study subject and topic from functional grammar than from the others. At the same time , it will be basic on cognition and communication.
Guided by the literature review, there is a point we should make sure, subject is a concept of syntactic structures while topic belongs to Pragmatics whatever our research goals are and from different angles. At the same time , we have to accept that Chinese is a language that is lack of morphological change and is very difficult to distinguish subject from topic. So when we are doing this kind of research , we should try our best to define it clearly ,especially formally.
VI. Outline of the Paper
2.Subject and topic in English
2.1Subject in English
2.1.1 Dispute over subject in English
2.1.2 Definition of subject in English
2.1.3 Choice of subject and its semantic role
2.2Topic in English
3. Subject and topic in Chinese
3.1Subject in Chinese
3.1.1Importance of subject to Chinese
3.1.2 Choice of subject and its semantic roles
3.2Topic in Chinese
4. A Comparison between Chinese and English
4.1 Subject in Chinese and English
4.2 Topic in Chinese and English
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