4

餐厅是在周边一个靠海的小城市。

(1) I don't know what to make of the presence of 是 in the above sentence, which is obviously not saying that the restaurant is a small town in the periphery.

(2) I don't understand the syntactic relation between 周边 and [... 城市]. It is hard to make 周边 a modifier of the NP that follows, since it precedes the determiner 一个. So, do we have a coordination? an apposition?

(3) Would adding 的 somewhere clarify the structure? (Since I understand it is bad style to repeat 的 when there are nested premodifications.)

5 Answers 5

6

(1) Here 是 is NOT a copula, but a marker for the cleft sentence, equivalent to the English it-cleft. It emphasizes what comes after.

Historically, the evolution of copula in Chinese started from existting (early form is 惟 and its variations), to nonexisting (者..也 is used instead of a copula) to existing (是 developed into a copula). It's related to cleft sentences since the cleft marker is a further grammaticalization of the copula (happened with 惟 in transition to the second stage). Now 是 is repeating what was happening with 惟. Along the process the cleft or pseudo-cleft sentences get more and more popular. There is an excellent source of reading, 《上古汉语语法纲要》. It is a bit difficult but very illuminating, and it also compares Old Chinese with Middle and Modern Chinese.

Normally 是 can be put at many positions depending on what to emphasize.

(The quoted examples are taken from 今文《尚书》“惟”字分裂句初探, 郭维茹 2016)

It can be used to emphasize the subject,

老李昨天买了这本书。It was John who bought the book yesterday.

It can be used to emphasize the adverbial,

老李昨天买了这本书。It was yesterday that John bought the book.

It can be used to emphasize the predicate,

老李昨天买了这本书

This one is more subtle. Depending on the context, it can emphasize either the verb, the object, or the whole predicate. Compare

他昨天买了这本书,不是借了这本书。

他昨天买了这本书,不是那本书

他昨天买了这本书,不是还了那本书

“餐厅在周边一个靠海的小城市。” is a locative sentence, making it only possible to emphasize the subject or the whole predicate with 是. Your example emphasizes the whole predicate, located at one of the surrounding small close-to-see cities. To emphasize the subject, we can say 餐厅在周边一个靠海的小城市。It's more natural in comparison, e.g. 餐厅在周边一个靠海的小城市, 不是邮局。(as contrastive focus)

(2)周边 modifies 小城市, not the NP 一个靠海的小城市. The structure is common. For example, 我出生在鄱阳湖边一个美丽的村庄里。In this one and your example, the location of numeral + classifer cannot be switched. It's likely because that the location 周边、鄱阳湖边 is tighter with 在.

Sometimes we can switch the location of numeral + classifer. For example, 昨天来的几个朋友 vs. 几个昨天来的朋友. There are some subtle difference between them. The focus and stress are different: the former on 昨天来的 and the latter on 几个. This is again more meaningful and easier to see if it's acted as a contrastive focus.

(3)No. 周边的一个靠海的小城市 is bad style. For a native speaker the structure of the original sentence is clear, and the wording is neat. Yet, there is a way I think to make it clearer to a learner.

We can add 里 at the end: 餐厅是在周边一个靠海的小城市里。It doesn't change the meaning or focus, but make it more colloquial. It might help your understanding since often what we see is a circumposition rather than a preposition, like 在...上, 从...起. The using of 在...里 clearly segment the sentence into 餐厅 是 在...里.

Or we can make the modifier of 周边 explicit. For example, 餐厅是在我家周边一个靠海的小城市里。Not sure if this helps understanding.

Those being said, 周边的一个靠海的小城市里 is not completely useless. If the speaker pauses to think, then he might add a 的 after 周边 before or while (a prolonged sound of 的) he thinks.

7
  • Excellent breakdown of the structure. Would just add that sometimes plausible additions like cleft 是 can be for better sounds. Just an observation of mine. I don't think that's considered academically.
    – Argyll
    Nov 6, 2022 at 1:45
  • "the evolution of copula in Chinese started from 有 to 无 to 有". Was this supposed to read from "有 to 无 to 是"?
    – Adam Burke
    Nov 6, 2022 at 3:49
  • 1
    @AdamBurke Sorry for the confusion. I intend this paragraph only for extra info so didn't write it carefully. The corresponding part is now reworded.
    – lilysirius
    Nov 6, 2022 at 5:31
  • Thanks for rewording. Of course it makes sense (now) that the copula didn't evolve to 是 when your whole point was that 是 was not a copula but a cleft in this sentence.
    – Adam Burke
    Nov 6, 2022 at 5:41
  • Very nice explanation of the 是...(的) structure! Given the way you explained it, I now realize that this usage of 是 is also largely equivalent to the pitch emphasis of English. Very interesting! Nov 15, 2022 at 16:52
2

From a native speaker's perspective, there are many interpretations of this sentence to me.

First, this can be just a syntactically wrong sentence. It's a mix of "餐厅在..." and "餐厅的位置是...". It's like mixing "I'm..." with "My name is..." and ending up with "My name am...". It happens a lot in speaking, since people just change the way of saying it in the middle.

Second, if this sentence appears in a conversation like:

  • A: 餐厅不是在市中心吗?
  • B: 餐厅在周边一个靠海的小城市。

You can treat the extra "是" as a way of emphasizing, which is also common in English:

  • The restaurant IS located ...

Third, this can also be a phenomena of "Westernized Chinese", it's actually a mimic of how English works.

The restaurant is located at a    small seaside city nearby.
()  餐厅       (是)在          一个 小    靠海的    城市   周边.

You can see that the only words left unmatched between Chinese and English are "the" and "is", so people tend to add a "是" to the sentence if they know how to speak English. More examples:

我(有)吃过饭了.

In this example, the "有" here is totally optional.

About "周边" as a modifier, unlike English, Chinese always put modifiers before the noun, no matter how long they are. It's just how people say it, I guess.

1

Re-read the article. It seems to describe the touring places of a local (city) and its vicinity (satellite towns). With that knowledge, you can construct the sentence as:

  • "餐厅是在(XX城)周边一个靠海的小城市".

For example, a tour guide may say:

  • "那/這家餐厅在(台北)周边一个靠海的小城市(ie 淡水或金山)" - "That/this restaurant is located in a "little town(小城市)" at the "periphery(周边)" of Taipei by the ocean/sea(靠海的)."
  1. So, "是" does mean "is". (as a linking verb)

  2. You can add a 的 after 周边 but eliminate the 的 after 靠海. Yes, it is not advisable to use 的 repetitively.

  • "餐厅是在台北周边一个靠海小城市".
1

餐厅是在周边一个靠海的小城市。

(1) I don't know what to make of the presence of 是 in the above sentence, which is obviously not saying that the restaurant is a small town in the periphery.

(2) I don't understand the syntactic relation between 周边 and [... 城市]. It is hard to make 周边 a modifier of the NP that follows, since it precedes the determiner 一个. So, do we have a coordination? an apposition?

(3) Would adding 的 somewhere clarify the structure? (Since I understand it is bad style to repeat 的 when there are nested premodifications.)

The sentence 餐厅是在周边一个靠海的小城市。 It could be translated: The restaurant is in a small town adjacent to the sea in the outskirts (of our city). 周邊一個靠海的小城市,和一個周邊靠海的小城市are different. (1) “是在”和“在”没有意思上的区别。”是”也许是“是………的”的结构,但有时候…………太复杂的时候,结尾的“的”可以省略吧。The sentence could also be written :餐厅在…………小城市里。或餐厅是在…………小城市里的。”里”和”里的”could be omitted. (2)&(3)”周邊”可以加”的”。但”周邊(的)一個靠海的小城市”,和”一個周邊靠海的小城市”are different。“周边靠海的”is a composite adjective, “周边(的)”before “一个” is of a different dimension.

-1

No need for alarm or consternation, the writer was just in a hurry, forgot 'location'.

You should not apply this "copula verb" nonsense to Chinese. A word which connects two clauses is a conjunction in normal parlance:

Grammatical sense of "connective particle serving to unite clauses of a sentence or coordinate words in a clause or sentence" (late 14c.) was in Latin, a loan-translation of Greek syndesmos.

If Western Grammar insists on making a fool of itself, there is no need to drag Chinese into the mire.

是:此,这 [this;that]

我发现了一家很棒的新餐馆。
I discovered a great new restaurant.

餐厅的位置是在周边一个靠海的城市。
The restaurant's location is on the outskirts of a seaside town.

他们的鱼特别好吃!
The fish is delish!

Phrase structure:

[餐厅]的[位置]是[在周边一个靠海的城市]
[adjective] 的 [noun] 是 [where]

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.