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Beginning of an article on qiushibaike.com:

这是一件发生在楼主身上的糗事,事情是这样的: ... (the story is explained)

My initial semi-literal translation:

This embarrassing story happened to the OP (original poster) themselves. It was like this: ...

However, after reading into the first part more, I noticed the 是, which led me to think that it's one long noun phrase.

I would break it down like this:

这。。。是。。。一件发生在楼主身上的。。。糗事。

Breaking down the noun modifying phrase further:

一件。。。发生在楼主身上。。。的

And further yet:

发生。。。在楼主身上

where 在楼主身上 is a location complement of 发生.

Therefore, a second attempt at literal translation is:

This is an embarrassing story that happened to the original poster. It was like this: ...

Questions:

  1. Is the second translation more accurate?
  2. Does 发生 really take location complements? I only know of phrases like 发生了事故, where there is no location complement.
  3. Is the following reasoning correct?
  1. 在我公司发生了事故 is ambiguous as it can mean either "an accident has happened at my company" or "an accident that has happened at my company".
  2. The ambiguity is there because of a lack of a classifier 一件 or possessive particle 的.
  3. Clarity can be achieved by adding them, like so:
    • 在我公司发生了一件事故 - an accident has happened at my company
    • 一件在我公司发生了的事故 - an accident that has happened at my company
  4. 的 in the second sentence is optional.
  1. If (2) is true, can I move 在我公司 after 发生了 in (3) without changing the meaning?
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    to test whether 发生在... is possible, submit it e.g. to iciba, find several examples showing validity – user6065 Apr 23 '18 at 16:40
  • @user6065 You're right! I forgot about that website... – Igor Sowinski Apr 23 '18 at 17:47
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Is the second translation more accurate?

Yes, it is.

Does 发生 really take location complements? I only know of phrases like 发生了事故, where there is no location complement.

The entire phrase: '发生在...的' is an adjectival phrase for the noun '事故'. '在' is the location complement. '的' is the adjectival suffix. (not possessive particle in this context)

(发生 is a verb, so it does take location complement 在)

Is the following reasoning correct?

在我公司发生了事故 is ambiguous as it can mean either "an accident has happened at my company" or "an accident that has happened at my company"

It can only mean "an accident has happened at my company"; to mean "an accident that has happened at my company" you need to write "在我公司发生的事故" (了 is optional)

The ambiguity is there because of a lack of a classifier 一件 or possessive particle 的.

There is no ambiguity, without adjectival suffix 的, "在我公司发生了事故" can only mean "an accident has happened at my company"

Clarity can be achieved by adding them, like so

在我公司发生了一件事故 - an accident has happened at my company

一件在我公司发生了的事故 - an accident that has happened at my company

It is correct

的 in the second sentence is optional.

In the second sentence, '的' cannot be omitted: only '了' is optional

If (2) is true, can I move 在我公司 after 发生了 in (3) without changing the meaning?

Yes, you can. The following are both correct as long as the adjectival suffix 的 is present at the end to indicate '[在我公司][发生]'or '[发生][在我公司]' is an adjectival phrase

一件在我公司发生的事故 = 一件发生在我公司的事故

  • You wonderful human being. A methodical, step-by-step answer is exactly what I needed. If you could supply a source for or codification of the last rule, I would be eternally grateful - but I already am. – Igor Sowinski Apr 23 '18 at 17:47
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    在我公司发生 = "At my company [where] it happened" ; 发生在我公司 = "It happened at my company" – Tang Ho Apr 23 '18 at 20:23
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I don't know for sure without more context, but I tend to think 楼主 is 'me' and 在楼主身上 is therefore 'to me'. The person is talking about him- or herself in the third person.

这是一件发生在楼主身上的糗事,事情是这样的:
This is a funny story which happened to me, it was like this:

The Chinese says:
一件糗事
一件发生在楼主身上的糗事
a happen to me 的 funny story

一件发生在楼主身上的糗事
a happen (on my body on) 的 funny story (on my body on = to me)

Chinese says: this is a '(which) happen to me' 的 funny story

If you consider 'to me' a location, then you could call '在楼主身上' a locative complement. The point is, an event happened, not 'me/I happened'. In Western grammar that is called an indirect object.

Whereas in English we build an adjectival phrase as a relative clause and place it after the noun ‘story which happened to me’, Chinese does not.

'在我公司发生了事故' is not really ambiguous, just incomplete. What exactly do you want to say?

今天在我(的)公司发生了一件事故。

今天警察来调查一件在我(的)公司里发生的事故。

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