[Note. This doc version does not show the Chinese characters correctly, but it does show the structure diagrams; the reverse is true of the ps (postscript) version which can also be downloaded

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In (10a), 如果rúguŏ is used to introduce the adverbial clause and it has the same function as If in (10b). Removing both words from (10a) and (10b) will render the sentences ungrammatical. In my opinion, the signal word in here is essential because when we are dealing with a conditional or imaginary situation, we have to specify clearly the following situation has not been materialised; and the other clause in that sentence tells us what will happen if the situation happen to be materialised. Just think about how serious the consequences can be if you are mistaken –

(11a) If there is a fire, please exit through the main gate.

(11b) There is a fire, please exit through the main gate.

Sentence (11b) should actually be “There is a fire! Please exit through the main gate.” However, in a conversation, the punctuation might not be clearly shown. Your reaction on hearing the two utterances will be completely different! You may just nod your head and say “Yes. Thanks for telling me. I’ll know what to do in case of a fire.” If you have the same reaction when you are told (11b), you are putting your life at risk!
Note that if in examples 9 and 10 have different meanings. That in example 9 introduces something bearing the property of “yes or no” while that in example 10 introduces the particular situation that the sentence describes.
There are cases when the occurrence of signal words in English is optional. Consider another noun clause:
(12a) 我 認為 他 這 篇 文章

wŏ rènwéi tā zhè piān wén zhāng

I think his this piece article

有 很 高 的 學術 價值 。

yŏu hĕn gāo de xuéshù jiàzhí

possesses very high (particle) academic value

Which means …
(12b) I think that his article possesses a very high academic value.

noun clause
The sentence (12b) is still grammatical if that in the noun clause is removed. The signal word is optional. In contrast, we cannot add any that in Chinese in (12a), simply because Chinese grammar does not allow any signal word in this case.
The study of English and Chinese grammar

Both English and Chinese languages have a very long history and both have undergone tremendous changes from time to time. Nowadays, we do not speak like Shakespeare or Confucius did, do we? Grammar is alive. It is modified in the course of language evolution. Those rules which are regarded as archaic would eventually be dropped. I reckon that different languages in the world do affect their counterparts in one way or another. There was no systematic study of Chinese grammar until the 19th century. The first book of a systematic study of Chinese grammar written by a Chinese is the馬氏文通Mă shì wéntōng in 1898, which was a study of Classical Chinese grammar modelled on Western grammar (Norman 1988). Western missionaries who came to China in the last two centuries have also contributed a lot to the development of the study. They were studies of Chinese grammar written by them from as early as the 17th century (“Language-contact International Round-table Academic Conference” 2000). Globalisation is never a recent invention – it has always taken place at any time and any where, even in languages!


Asher, R.E. 1994. Atlas of the World’s Languages. Routledge. .

Bright, W. 1992. International Encyclopedia of Linguistics. Oxford University Press

Chao, Y.R. 1968. A grammar of spoken Chinese. University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles.

Gao, M.C.F. 2000. Mandarin Chinese: An Introduction. Oxford University Press.

Norman, J. 1988. Chinese. Cambridge University Press.

“Language-contact International Round-table Academic Conference” 2000 -


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