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I found a sentence from a story which goes:

这不,马小姐正在和她的好朋友李太太聊起这个男人的事情。

The word that I don't fully understand is “聊起”。

I know that 聊 means to talk and 起 means to rise, but that just doesn't make sense together. Can anyone help me out? Any help would be appreciated.

Thank you!

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It means "to start talking/chatting".

起来 can be used as a direction complement to express that the action has started.

As it's common in direction complements, when there is an object, the second direction verb 去 / 来 can be moved after it, and it can even be omitted1.

For example:

  • 咱们动起来吧 = Let's move!
  • 我刚看起这本书,就觉得无聊 = I just started reading this book, and I'm already bored

Additional examples can be found here.


1: in the linked question, 起来 was used in its more literal meaning of "rise up". In your example and in this answer, "to begin" is figurative. The AllSetLearning link explains these two usages as well.

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  • I agree on HungYu Chang's answer. 起 in the OP's sentence doesn't mean "to start", but like 到 or 及, which is also a complement, denoting 'involvement' other than 'start'. – dan Sep 4 at 4:34
  • In my view, 聊到, would be better translated into English as "regarding" – Wayne Cheah Sep 5 at 4:11
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    And yes, 聊起 is better understood as "talk about", (or "start to talk about"), which I initially wanted to use. However, I settled on just "start to..." because OP was confused as to why 聊, (talk), 起, (rise), is combined and what is the role of 起. So in order to remain topical to OP's question, 起, it's many meanings and role in 聊起 has to be explained. By replacing 起 with 到 dose not explain adequately the role of 起 in this context. – Wayne Cheah Sep 5 at 4:28
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聊起這個男人的事情 and 聊到這個男人的事情 have the same meaning, so that I think 聊起 is more like 「TALK ABOUT」 instead of 「START TO TALK」.

这不,马小姐正在和她的好朋友李太太【開始】聊起这个男人的事情。

Add 開始 in this sentence is more like "START TO TALK SOMETHING/SOMEBODY"

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  • Yes, I agree with you that 起 here means 到 instead of "start to". – dan Sep 4 at 4:21
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Besides "rise", 起, also has the meaning of "start" or "start to..."

So, 聊起, in the context of the sentence means "start to talk"

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这不,马小姐正在和她的好朋友李太太聊起这个男人的事情。

起 in 聊起 here denotes this sense defined in dictionaries:

用在动词后,表示动作涉及某人或某事,相当于“及”或“到”(used after a verb, denoting the person or things involed in the action. works like '及' or '到')

他从没提起过这件事。

P. S. It might not be relevant to your question. FWIW, the sentence has an issue that 正在 and 聊起 contradict each other. This might be an improvement:

这不,马小姐和她的好朋友李太太聊起了这个男人的事情。

or

这不,马小姐正在和她的好朋友李太太聊着这个男人的事情。

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