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Observation:

保有财产; 抱有好感; 怀有敌意; 他俩育有一子; 学校设有音乐课; 杯子留有指纹

Bi-syllabic verbal compounds like those in bold above are sometimes treated as words (insofar as I found them all listed as "entries/lemmas" in at least one dictionary). When they do, they are presented as forming a lexical unit.

However,

桌上摆有一卷书; 屋中堆有一百袋大米; 庭中种有几棵树; 车上坐有四人; 桌上放有信件; 床下藏有黄金; 林里搭有帐篷; 城内通有地铁; 东北流有福溪

Bi-syllabic verbal compounds like these are not recorded in any dictionary, although they are similarly-formed and otherwise unexceptional. When pressed, people simply describe them as serial verb constructions.

Problem:

Chinese grammars describe many types of serial verb constructions, but NEVER in the V+有 pattern. Chinese dictionaries rarely if ever list any of the above V+有 compounds as words, as observed above. So how are we to analyse these compounds?

Morphologically, they do seem perfectly good candidates for word-hood but, syntactically, they could also be described as resultative constructions of one form or another.

Questions:

  1. Do you think they are all simply collocations of verbs arranged in a resultative (or other?) construction?

  2. If not (and so you think some of them are words), are there any criteria we can use to explain why some are to be excluded from word-hood?

  3. If you're a Chinese native speaker, do compounds like 摆有, 堆有, 种有, 坐有 (which never appear in dictionaries) strike you as creative constructions?

    • If so: Would you compose them each time afresh, based on context? (For example, thinking of 庭+有树 and deciding to add in 种 to clarify how the tree are in the courtyard or thinking about 车+有人 and deciding to add in 坐 to clarify how the people are in the car)?
    • If not: Does it surprise you that some dictionaries list compounds like 持有, 保有, 抱有 and 育有 but no dictionary lists compounds like 摆有, 坐有, 种有 and 堆有? How would you explain this fact?
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  • perhaps better suited for the linguistics stackexchange Jan 7, 2021 at 0:28
  • How to divide words in Chinese is an infamous knotty problem and there is no answer that everybody agrees on. There is no natural or objective line between a word and a phrase in Chinese. Normally you can look at how fixed or free the morphemes are, but this is a matter of degree.
    – Betty
    Jan 7, 2021 at 7:08
  • Just adding 画有 to this list of non-dictionary words featuring 有 as the locative complement of a monosyllabic verb.
    – Sanchuan
    Oct 2, 2022 at 16:06
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    I maintain that it is incorrect to attempt to analyze Chinese with a Western grammar. Oct 26, 2023 at 2:30
  • The examples you gave appears to be badly styled (for the want of a better word) Chinese, with the possible exception of 设有音乐课. For example, 留有指纹 is rather nonsensical. It ought to be 留下指纹, such as 疑犯在現場留下指紋 Oct 26, 2023 at 2:36

2 Answers 2

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Most of the examples listed are based on a special function of the verb 有 (possess) to follow and bond with another verb to form a tightly-bound term. In linguistic terms, it is called a serial verb compound.

Some serial verb compounds like 抱有(e.g 抱有大志),擁有(e.g. 擁有巨大財富) and 藏有(e.g. 藏有毒品) became compound words because they are very commonly used and people treat them as such.

Since 有 can bond with so many verbs, it is simpler to group all these possible serial verb compounds under the function of 有 than list each and every possible pair as an independent compound word

Similarly. Not all [verb + result complement] is listed as an independent compound word, but the common ones do

Example:

走避; 走失 (compound words)

走掉, 走上,走入,走出 (verb + result complement)

We do not list 走掉, 走上,走入,走出 as compound words, they are all under 走's ability to bond with a result complement

Typically, a compound words is coined with two related/ similar meaning characters

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  • It seems to me that the serial verb compounds that are included in dictionaries all have something in common that the ones that don't appear in dictionaries don't share: 拥有,抱有,育有 all seem to be parallel compounds, in that both verbs in the compound have something to do with possession. On the other hand 坐有,种有,and 堆有 feel more like verb-resultative compounds. Is this just a coincidence?
    – Buddy L
    Mar 7, 2022 at 21:51
  • @Buddy L Yes, it is very common for two characters that are similar in meaning to bond into a compound word. e.g 打击(hit), 战斗(fight), 观察 (observe)
    – Tang Ho
    Mar 7, 2022 at 22:01
  • Yes, but this doesn't answer my question...The phrases with 有 that the OP mentions aren't parallel compounds, while all of the words with 有 are parallel compounds, like the ones you mentioned (打击,战斗,观察). Could it be that it is more likely for a parallel compound to become lexicalized than a verb-resultative compound?
    – Buddy L
    Mar 7, 2022 at 22:11
  • yes, it is more likely for a parallel compound to become lexicalized than a verb-resultative compound
    – Tang Ho
    Mar 7, 2022 at 22:16
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Edit: The original answer was toward a previous version of the question which claimed 保有, 抱有, etc. are counted in all dictionaries of standard Chinese.

As others have pointed out, because Chinese doesn't have inherent word boundaries, the concept of word is fuzzy and there are many borderline cases of what counts as word and what counts as phrases with substructures.

From a practical viewpoint, the reason that a dictionary selects an entry is that 1) it is likely to be encountered by the intended users of the dictionary; 2) the said user probably will have difficulty understanding that entry.

Hence 保有 is collected in a number of dictionaries for native speakers, because 保有 means to own or keep something, but standalone 保 (to protect) does not have this meaning in modern Chinese, hence the meaning of 保有 cannot be directly derived from the meaning of 保.

Without knowning exactly which dictionary collects these words I cannot comment on why. I would guess the editors of that dictionary thought those constructions would confuse language learners as some of them have slightly derived meanings. Example: 抱 means to hug something (physically), but 抱有 is often used in the derived meaning of keeping some kind of feeling in heart as in 抱有幻想. On the other hand they thought 摆有 and others were transparent enough and need no explanation.


Original answer: Which dictionaries?

保有 抱有 怀有 育有 设有 留有
新华字典 第12版 N N N N N N
现代汉语词典 第7版 Y N N N N N
现代汉语规范词典 第4版 Y N Y N N N
现代汉语大词典 N N N N N N
(Taiwan) 重編國語辭典修訂本 Y N only in phrase 怀有鬼胎 N N only in phrase 留有余地
(HK) 漢語多功能字庫 N N N N N N

The dictionaries listed here include the most commonly used Chinese-Chinese dictionaries in mainland China. Only 保有 and 怀有 are present in at least one dictionary. It is definitely not the case that "they are counted in all dictionaries." Note that I only consider dictionaries that are academically reliable.

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  • You're right - those "words" don't appear in ALL dictionaries. But they do appear in SOME (if you include online & Ch-En dicts). So my overall question remains valid (and your answer is clearly: "none of them are words"). Anyway, thank you so much for your correction. I've edited the text of the question accordingly.
    – Sanchuan
    Oct 26, 2023 at 16:48
  • @Sanchuan I've updated the answer. As said without knowing exactly which books you are consulting I cannot know why certain content is included or not included. You mentioned you did not find them in grammar books. In my grammar reference, they are considered a special form of "有"字句: 张斌《现代汉语描写语法》Section 9.4. Oct 26, 2023 at 18:36
  • Your answer, and your book, seem to point to the first hypothesis above: none of those are 词/words. It's great to know there's actually a book that describes them as 字句/constructions(?) instead [thanks for the ref!], but calling them "special" doesn't exactly explain their grammar (eg Are they resultative? Do they work with active verbs? Etc). If there's any grammatical explanation that you could add in, that might actually solve the puzzle! But thank you again either way.
    – Sanchuan
    Oct 26, 2023 at 20:21
  • It would take too long to explain all the relevant observations in that book -- it's a big book of descriptive grammar. You can get it on z-lib. The basic idea is that the construction simultaneously expresses the existence of something, and the means by which it exists, or its state. The verb before 有 can be either transitive or intransitive verb. If it is transitive then the thing is the target, as in 缸里养有金鱼; if it is intransitive then the thing is the agent, as in 门口站有一个人. Oct 26, 2023 at 20:42

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