I am confused about the 了 in the sentence:
Zhèɡe biǎo kuàile wǔ fēnzhōnɡ.
This watch is running five minutes faster.
Clearly there is no change of state. Is it for completion? I don't understand what is completed...
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It is a well-known fact in Chinese linguistics that adjectives denoting gradable attributes must be “initiated” with a certain value of degree when used in predicative constructions. In this case, we have a certain form of comparison, kind of “quite/rather X”. For example:
Usually, the adverb很 is used to indicate a default positive value of degree.
When the verbal suffix了 is used in a predicative construction with this kind adjectives, we also have a certain form of comparison, kind of “getting more X”. For example:
In this case, the verbal suffix了also indicates a positive value of degree, which comes with an aspectual dimension (i.e. “getting” more X).
Grammatically, the completion is not only for verbs but also for adjectives. In your example 快了, 快 is an adj. Another example might be easier to understand. 苹果红了, apples turned red. 苹果熟了 is a similar example.
Here is the dictionary definition about this usage of 了.
了 / le /
Apples got red.
And the official 新华字典 has the similar definition:
- 放在动词或形容词后，表示动作变化已经完成: 买~一本书 | 水位低~一米。
From my expert friend:
Adjectives behave very much like verbs in Chinese grammar. Like verbs, many adjectives can take aspect markers (瘦咗, 靚過), resultative particles (開心翻, 污糟晒), objects (好熟佢, 緊張啲仔女, 嬲爆佢啲同學). That’s why some grammarians call those adjectives as adjectival verbs. But they are still adjectives, and do not imply any omission of verbs before them. We think of a possible omission only because of the English grammar in the English translation (e.g. become, turn).
快了 in 这个表快了五分钟 is apparently an "adjectival verb" (adjectival + aspect marker). It is an adjective, but acts like a verb
After some consideration, I decided treating [adjective +了 ] the same as [(implied verb) + adjective + 了] . is one way to see it, but 了 does work with adjective, not as a verb particle but as an adverb 快= fast; 快了 = got faster.
"这个表[快了]五分钟" = "This watch [got faster] by five minutes "
Above is the answer with the assumption of 了 is an adverb for the adjective
Below is the answer with the assumption of 了 is a verb particle for an implied verb
Is it for completion.
手錶快了 can mean '手錶走快了' or '手錶被調快(調早)了'
If the watch is running faster than the normal speed:
(走快)五分钟 = (run) five minutes (faster) -- No indication of the verb (走快) is a completed action. e.g. 一小時後手錶會走快五分钟 (走快 is not a completed action here)
(走快了)五分钟 = (have ran) five minutes (faster) -- 了 indicates the verb (走快) is a completed action
If the watch is running at normal speed, but is five minutes ahead of the real time, it must had been set wrong:
(被調快)五分钟 = (be set) five minutes (ahead) -- No indication of the verb (調快) is a completed action. e.g. 明天把手錶調快五分钟 (調快 is not completed action here)
(被調快了) 五分钟 = (had been set) five minutes (ahead) -- 了 indicates the verb (調快) is a completed action.