Encyclopedia of Chinese Language and Linguistics

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Topic and Comment
(4,312 words)

In his Grammar of Spoken Chinese (1968), still the best grammar of Mandarin available, Y.R. Chao states that all clauses in Chinese are topic-comment, and there are no exceptions, though there are some clauses that only have comments, as in (1):




Xià   yǔ     le.


fall  rain  csm


‘It’s raining.’

Put very simply, the structure of the clause has two parts: the topic, which is reference to some referent available for comment; and the comment, which supplies some information about that topic. Chao (1955, 1959) argued that word order is no…

Cite this page
Randy LAPOLLA, “Topic and Comment”, in: Encyclopedia of Chinese Language and Linguistics, General Editor Rint Sybesma. Consulted online on 01 April 2023 <http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/2210-7363_ecll_COM_00000428>
First published online: 2015

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