Take the 2-minute tour ×
Chinese Language Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for students, teachers, and linguists wanting to discuss the finer points of the Chinese language. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I have a habit of using too many characters when I speak and write.

For example:

我回我的家。

我的 is not needed, and we can simply say 我回家。

Is there a grammar rule for when to cut characters? A more generic example:

AB + CD = AD. (A, B, C, D are characters and AB is one word and CD is another word). For example:

啰哩啰嗦 is said as 啰嗦

share|improve this question
1  
+1 This is a nice question. :) I'm interested in the answers. –  Alenanno Jan 30 '12 at 20:33
    
+1 I am native Chinese and I don't feel there is any grammar rule for this (or at least for the 我回家 example). Think about it: 我回家 = I go home. So why don't we say "I go to my home" in English when "I" want to go to "my" home, not anybody else's home? –  coolcfan Jan 31 '12 at 2:05
    
@coolcfan, I have learned that, I was just giving an easy example. Also it would be I'm going home. Side note how to you say the progressive tense in Chinese. –  MaoYiyi Jan 31 '12 at 5:10
    
@MaoYiyi for example, "What are you doing?" "I am watching TV" -- -你在干什么? -我在看电视。 Here (or 正在 or 正) indicates a progressive tense. But a word that indicates a progressive tense is not always necessary. For example, in oral Chinese, -你干嘛呢? -看电视” can also be a dialogue of "- What are you doing? - I am watching TV". –  coolcfan Jan 31 '12 at 9:02
1  
I think it is strange to talk of omitting 'characters'. What you are talking about is omitting words. Even in Chinese I think it would sound strange to talk about omitting 'characters' in speech. –  Bathrobe Jan 31 '12 at 23:42
add comment

2 Answers 2

up vote 3 down vote accepted

This is an interesting question. As other commenters have noted, the answer may depend on convention (e.g., "回家") or grammar (possession vs. adverbial modification). It also may depend on the rules for Chinese prosody, which is what I will focus on here.

Tang Dynasty poetry was based on disyllabic (grouped into two syllables), trochaic (grouped into pairs having the form STRESSED unstressed, or, as I'll write it below, Xx) rhythms. Modern Chinese speech follows this basic pattern. Generally, Chinese utterances start with a stressed syllable (though a single unstressed introductory syllable may be used) and follow an alternating stressed/unstressed pattern. (One or two unstressed syllables may be used between stressed syllables, but having two adjacent stressed syllables is rare.)

Yip Po-Ching and Don Rimmington's Chinese: A Comprehensive Grammar gives the following example:

我想再买一杯酒.
I'd like to buy another glass of wine.

This can be analyzed as 我想 // 再买 // 一杯 // 酒, with stress pattern Xx // Xx // Xx // X.

If the speaker wanted to add the word 去, the rhythm is disturbed:

我想再去买一杯酒.

The most natural option is to parse this as 我想 // 再去 // 买 // 一杯 // 酒, but this is rhythmically unsatisfactory, since it leads to a stress pattern of Xx // Xx // X // Xx // X. Both 再 and 买 should be stressed if the sentence is to maintain its emphasis on "buy" and "another", but this is not possible within the trochaic rhythm.

The solution is to delete the syllable 一 and say,

我想再去买杯酒.

This pairs up nicely into stressed/unstressed trochees: 我想 // 再去 // 买杯 // 酒; Xx // Xx // Xx // X.

Chinese speakers naturally add and delete words like 的 or 一 to fit the basic stressed/unstressed rhythm. The subject is complicated, and I'm not sure how well its completely understood. The difficulty for language speakers who aren't attuned to rhythmic variations is that it seems like the deletions are random, when in fact they're often manifestations of underlying rhythmical rules.

share|improve this answer
    
Thanks, I was the aspect of the questions, I really didn't have a reason for. –  MaoYiyi Feb 1 '12 at 0:40
    
+1 what a great answer! –  Michael Robinson May 15 '12 at 6:38
add comment

I personally think that the omission characters such as the 的 or the shortening of certain phrases is to cut down repetitiveness/overly wordy phrases, for the sake of articulation (usually when speaking). E.g. "lol" vs. "laugh out loud." or "mama/papa" vs. "mother/father."

I agree with coolcfan, in general, I don't think there are any strict gramatical rules regarding when characters such as 的 can be omitted.

In the case of the OP's phrase, 的 is used as an auxiliary word. 的 is used between pronoun(我) and noun(家) to indicate possession/relationship. It shows that 我 is in processions of or in close (personal) relationship to this 家, as opposed to the 家 of others. In this situation, the character "的" can be omitted.

However, when 的 is used between an adjective and noun to indicate modification (as 紅色的書, the adjective(紅色) requires 的 to modify the noun(書)), 的 is cannot be omitted.

In a similar sense, 是 can be omitted in sentences and phrases of positive context, but never when the context is negative. E.g. 他到北京(是)去做生意的 (He came/went to Beijing for business.) but not in 我不是從北京來的。

share|improve this answer
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.