I'm a graduate student studying how bilinguals interpret certain aspectual expressions in Mandarin. I'm currently preparing all of my stimuli, but I'm hoping for some help from native speakers since I'm sadly a monolingual English speaker. Basically, I'm looking for constructions that use bounded (with an adverbial or CL) and unbounded states with verbal suffix -le. I've accumulated some from studies I've read, but that's my only reference. Here are a couple of examples:

Bounded state + -le: Wo xihuan danxin-le ni liang nian (intended meaning: I liked you for two years (and no longer do))

Because my native speaker friend and a comment below say the weather phrase was sentence final le, which I am NOT testing, I changed the unbounded state + -le example:

Unbounded state + -le: Ta-de pengyou zhidao-le zhe-jian shi (intended: His friend has learned this matter (and still knows))

Here are some English examples as suggested below. I don't want to assign an English tense translation that might be inaccurate, so I've just paired some stative predicates with temporal adverbials for bounded states or direct objects for unbounded states. As long as the translation would include -le and not -guo or sentence final le, it should be alright.

bounded states with -le => no longer hold in present: disappointed for two years

busy last week

unbounded states with -le => still hold in present: believe the truth

resembles his mom

I actually just realized something that I could use some clarification on. Would any unbounded state with -le no longer hold in present if I added a bounding adverbial? So like with the example above, if I added liang niang, would it then no longer hold and imply that he learned the matter and no longer knows it? If that's the case, then I can actually collapse two conditions into one.

I would deeply appreciate examples, interpretations, or related ideas. Typically, I would be able to pay a native consultant, but because of COVID I'm not actually doing the experiment and so, have no money. Mandarin is fantastically complex and even just in the realm of aspect and its interactions, I could spend 15 years writing this thesis. I've been working on this for about a year now and the only aspectual marker I'm even writing about is -le.

  • Why don't you put some English sentences which you call "bounded" or "unbounded". They can be translated. Then define "aspect" in a rigorous manner, as you understand it.. The rest is easy. Words like "semelfactive" are used by linguists to confound ordinary mortals fact: something which is presumed to be true. factive: something presumed to be true. Latin: semel: once, even once, for the first time. Keep it simple! Otherwise, have a look here for sentences with le in English and Chinese: dict.youdao.com/example/blng/eng/%E4%BA%86/…
    – Pedroski
    Sep 7, 2020 at 7:55
  • Thanks so much, this is a great reference! I added a couple of English examples for each. I don't mean to be jargony! I use semelfactive because not all punctual predicates are acceptable. For example, achievement predicates like "I found my sweater" are not iteratable.
    – seadads
    Sep 7, 2020 at 21:01

1 Answer 1


I recommend you look for the book Charles N. Li, Sandra A. Thompson. Mandarin Chinese: A Functional Reference Grammar. I found it to be currently one of the best references in English that explain in depth Chinese grammar and that also has a lot of examples. It uses only pinyin, which from your question I think could be an advantage for you. There, they separate 了 in two types:

  • Perfective 了 (this is your bounded state + 了 and I think also the example you gave for Semelfactive + -le + adverbial). This is the chapter 6.1 of the book. I gave a summary of the different types and examples in this answer.

  • Sentence-final particle 了 or Current Relevant State (CRS) 了 (this refer to the example you gave for Unbounded state + -le). This is chapter 7.1 of the book. I have also written a summary here.

  • Keep in mind that Thompson & Li is a somewhat seasoned text. Nowadays the two 了 are described as aspectual (perfective) and modal (sentence-final).
    – blackgreen
    Sep 6, 2020 at 10:44
  • Do you mean that is the current most used terminology in English for example for research articles and technical books?
    – Puco4
    Sep 6, 2020 at 10:50
  • 1
    Yes those are the terms I see most often, in recent semi-technical written production. Heavily technical research may use different terms according to their background
    – blackgreen
    Sep 6, 2020 at 10:56
  • Thanks for these links! I actually already have Li & Thompson and have gotten a ton of background and examples from it. I'm deliberately not using sentence-final le in my study to avoid confounds (so I changed the reference example in the OP), or the other perfective -guo. I'm focusing specifically on coercion of verbal suffix -le with statives as it is used significantly less frequently in natural speech than with dynamic situations.
    – seadads
    Sep 7, 2020 at 21:06

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