r my church. On the application form, there was no space for suggestions as to where in the world I would like to serve as a missionary. Church leaders assign missionaries to the place they feel we should go. I was surprised with the assignment to serve in Taiwan, speaking Mandarin Chinese. I had no previous experience with Chinese people or their language, so I felt fortunate that the church provides 2 months of intensive language training before the missionary even gets on the plane.Order now
During my 2 months in the language-training center, I found out just how different Mandarin Chinese is from my native language. The time went by quickly, and after obtaining a very tenuous grasp on the basics of Mandarin, I got on the plane and flew to Taiwan. Upon arriving there, I was assigned a companion who had been in Taiwan for just over a year and a half. From my first day in Taiwan, I was expected to dive headfirst into the task of teaching people about the church. I found that although at the Missionary Training Center I had learned to put together basic sentences, there was a whole other level of the language that I still needed to consider—the discourse level. The pursuit of clear and fluent discourse has been a focus of mine ever since.
I always hoped that I would eventually “pick up” the finer points of Mandarin Chinese purely through contact with the people. The church did provide us with some study aids. However, these study aids amounted only to vocabulary lists and a few grammar hints which were either very basic or not altogether accurate. I discovered a trend, which has been accurately pointed out by Bourgerie (1997:107); those who made our study aids seemed to assume that ‘there are classes of items that are beyond the realm of normal pedagogy.’ It seems they assumed that mastery of these items would be obtained through everyday contact with the people. I found, upon returning home a year ago, that I still hadn’t “picked up” many of these items.
While my speaking ability had reached a point that native Chinese people clearly understood my pronunciation and tones, my mastery of those items that had not been clearly taught to me sometimes caused major communication breakdowns. Frustrated, I decided to isolate these parts of speech that were giving me so much trouble, look them up in reference grammars, and figure out once and for all how to use them like a native Chinese person. It was this search that raised the questions that I will attempt to answer in this paper.
The part of Chinese I chose to examine for this paper is the perfective aspect (PRV) -le particle. I will analyze and compare how various grammars, textbooks, and studies describe and explain this particle. Because most of the descriptions and explanations of this particle seem to be based mainly on the theories and ideas of the authors of these analyses, it seemed that a survey of native Chinese speakers would provide a good standard by which to judge these theories.
Li and Thompson’s book, MANDARIN CHINESE A Functional Reference Grammar (1981) is widely used to teach learners of Chinese how to use the PRV -le particle. That is why, for this paper, I chose to put Li and Thompson up against the standard a survey would provide. By looking at data from 27 Chinese Mandarin speakers’ use of PRV -le in discourse against Li and Thompson’s prescription of how the particle should be used, I will attempt to find out how accurate that prescription is when compared to how native speakers actually use the particle. Next, I present the results of the study. Finally, I discuss the implications of the results for learners of Chinese.
THE PRV -LE IN CHINESE GRAMMARS, TEXTBOOKS, AND LINGUISTICS JOURNALS.
As far as my experience goes, in the classroom setting, PRV -le was never taught in-depth. In doing the research for this paper, I’ve found that this lack of treatment in the classroom was not because of a lack of theoretical literature on the subject. In fact, the theories as .