I'm trying to parse the syntax of a sentence from a fairly well-known textbook. I understand the meaning.


I keep parsing 2 different sub-sentences, but am having trouble putting it all together.


okay that's a sentence.


okay that's another sentence.

But what's the relationship, both semantically and syntactically, between 雲南那兒的人 and 有少數幾個民族?

My hypotheses:

  1. It's an appositive of some kind. I don't think Chinese has appositives though.

e.g., John, the baker, bakes bread. 雲南那兒的人,有少數幾個民族..

  1. It's topic-comment.

雲南那兒的人(the topic) | 有少數幾個民族說的是漢語的方言(the full sentence comment). This whole thing is then just a garden path sentence where the subject of the comment, 有少數幾個民族, can be misparsed as the predicate of the topic (which is a false subject) because of the leading 有.

  1. Implicit/dropped 的


This explanation seems simplest.

  • 1
    Not a good sentence. So many people add too many unnecessary words to their sentences, making them awkward. 雲南有幾個民族說漢語方言 should suffice. As I have been championing: before asking for the analysis of a sentence, always ask first whether the sentence is acceptable. There is no reason to analyze bad sentences.
    – joehua
    Commented Oct 17, 2021 at 12:28
  • 1
    Thanks for the feedback, though I'll add this comes straight from 中華文化叢談, so I'm not in a position to question the goodness of the sentence. Commented Oct 17, 2021 at 21:52

4 Answers 4



The sentence is understandable but ungrammatical strictly speaking because 雲南那兒的人有少數幾個民族 doesn't make sense. The sentence can be improved by removing 的人, like 雲南那兒有少數幾個民族説的是漢語的方言, meaning in Yunnan there are several ethnic groups who speak 漢語的方言.

BTW, Chinese does have appositives. E.g. 我朋友徐某和她在谈朋友. 我朋友 and 徐某 are in apposition.

  • 2
    Perhaps "Sinitic topolects" for 漢語的方言?
    – Mou某
    Commented Oct 17, 2021 at 11:15

雲南那兒的人 有少數幾個民族 說的是漢語的方言. Not a good sentence but understandable. The background of this saying is because there are several groups of minorities that reside in the province of 雲南. Each has its own spoken language, and most of the languages are foreign to the Han Chinese, but a few of them are heavily influenced by the Han Language with a strong flavor of the local accent that qualifies them as dialects.

雲南那兒的人 有少數"的"幾個民族 說的是"夾雜着"漢語的方言. Note it is illogical to say "漢語的方言", as we all know 漢語 is not a 方言 (dialect), so I think "dialect mixed with Han language" is a better description.



It is a incorrect mix of "雲南那兒有說漢語方言的人。" and "雲南那兒有少數幾個民族說的是漢語方言。"

should be


雲南 / 那兒 / 有 / 少數幾個民族的 / 人 / 說的 / 是 漢語方言


Condense that somewhat:

(In) Yunnan there are some minority ethnic groups which speak dialects.

Language is the apposition of words and phrases. No apposition, no language.

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