Taiwan Journal of Linguistics

A Diamond Open Access Journal (free to authors and readers)
ISSN: 1729-4649 (print); 1994-2559 (online)


Huei-Ling Lin
Bu as a negator in Mandarin Chinese cannot co-occur with an aspect marker such as le. Moreover, bu cannot occur with the first verb in a descriptive/resultative construction. Huang (1988) suggests that the sequences [bu V le] and [bu descriptive/resultative construction] are ruled out for semantic reasons. That is, bu is first attached to V and then le is attached to the negated verb. Such a sequence [[bu-V]-le] is semantically absurd since the event that has not happened cannot be said to have been completed. [Bu descriptive/resultative construction] is ruled out for similar semantic reasons. The problem this paper proposes to tackle is: At which level is bu attached to V? Two arguments may be posited for the proposal that bu is lexically attached to V. The first argument comes from a consideration of the status of both bu and le and it is shown that only when bu is attached to V in the lexicon can the ungrammatical sequence [bu V le] be explained. Further evidence comes from the focus/contrast markers, shi and bu-shi, which have a flexible distribution. If bu is lexically attached to shi and then together bu-shi is inserted as a focus/contrast marker, then the flexible distribution can be explained. Throughout the discussion, it will be shown that bu can be the manifestation of bu alone, bu-Modal, or bu-shi. That is, unlike what it appears to be, bu is not just bu.

中文的「不」: 詞庫裡衍生的狀態否定詞