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So traditionally, translating relative clauses into Chinese involves treating the relative clause a a modifier for a noun and putting the modifier in front of the noun separated by de/的.

I.e. a structure like this: NP→(DP) S + DE (的) + (ADJ) N.

For example, wǒ zuótiān mǎi de chē/我昨天买的车 - "the car that I bought yesterday".

However, I came across this sentence in my DuChinese app:

  • hòulái fāshēng le liǎng jiàn shìqíng shēnshēnde cìjī le tā
  • 后来发生了两件事情深深地刺激了他
  • "then two things happened that deeply upset him"

In this sentence, the relative clause "that deeply upset him", i.e. shēnshēnde cìjī le tā/深深地刺激了他, is placed after the noun that it modifies, namely the "two things" liǎng jiàn shìqíng/两件事情. In the way, we're traditionally taught to translate relative clauses, the sentence would be 后来发生了两件深深地刺激了他的事件.

So I wonder if there's a general grammatical rule that allows for these kinds of patterns?

I'm not sure topicalization applies here, because if it was simply topicalization, we would move the 事件 up, still leaving the 的 hanging at the end, i.e. 后来发生了两件事件深深地刺激了他的.

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  • I don't have time to write a full-fledged answer, but there are really two structures in Mandarin that correspond to English relative clauses. One uses a clause ending in 的 before the "antecedent." The other just tacks on another clause afterwards. This is actually what we see often in sentences introducing a new topic with 有, as in 有很多人不喜欢喝酒. This sentence has a different focus from 有很多不喜欢喝酒的人. Often only one structure is possible because of rules regarding clause order or pragmatic intent. Nov 17, 2023 at 19:11

3 Answers 3

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My opinion is that 后来发生了两件事情深深地刺激了他 is a 兼语谓语句. It is the abbreviated form of the 连贯复句 "后来发生了两件事,(两件事)深深地刺激了他". "后来发生了两件深深地刺激了他的事件" is also correct translation, but "后来发生了两件事情,深深地刺激了他" is probably easier to read.

"后来发生了两件事件深深地刺激了他的" sounds incorrect to me.

"出现了新现象让我们都吃惊" sounds incorrect to me.

张斌《现代汉语描写语法》 p.466 says there is a special kind of 兼语谓语句 called 有无类兼语. In this kind of sentence the first verb asserts the existence of something, then this thing becomes the subject of the second verb. The examples it gives are:

我们村也个姑娘叫小芳。 我们单位没人知道她。 这些东西一个人看着。

The examples do not contain "发生了", but inasmuch as 发生了 also asserts the existence of an event, I think it is appropriate to classify the sentence into this structure.

We consider some alternatives:

  1. "后来发生了两件事情" is a 主谓短语 and functions as the subject, while "深深地刺激了他" is 谓语. If this were the case then we can replace "后来发生了两件事情" with a phrase that describes a more concrete event. However, this does not sound grammatical to me: "他父亲死了,深深地刺激了他", "他家化为灰烬,深深地刺激了他". Therefore, a phrase that describes an event cannot automatically become the subject of 刺激.

  2. "发生了两件事刺激了他" is a 连动谓语. The problem is that we cannot say "后来发生了两件事,后来刺激了他", so it is more appropriate to consider it as 兼语 rather than 连动.

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  • This makes a lot of sense - thanks a lot! Nov 5, 2023 at 18:12
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后来发生了两件事情深深地刺激了他

= 后来发生了两件事情,深深地刺激了他

= 后来发生了两件事情,which 深深地刺激了他

= 后来发生了两件事情,两件事情深深地刺激了他

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  • I wonder about the general pattern though? For example, saying 出现了新现象让我们都吃惊 sounds okay to me, but *走开了他没回来 is ungrammatical. Maybe it's to do with the verbs like 出现, 发生, etc. which can often appear in front of their subjects? Nov 4, 2023 at 15:06
  • 走开了他没回来 = 走开了,他没回来 It is not any words are special, but Chinese does not have strict gramma. And multiple sentences can be blended into one, like the cases you mentioned. The trick is to identity the break without punction.
    – Dudu
    Nov 4, 2023 at 15:13
  • 出现了新现象让我们都吃惊 = 出现了新现象, which 让我们都吃惊
    – Dudu
    Nov 4, 2023 at 15:22
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Maybe you are just using a simple English mindset to analyse Chinese, a language with its own beautiful and unique, non-English format.

两件事情深深地刺激了他.
Two things deeply upset him.
(upset is timeless, is he still upset or will he always be upset? Only the context will indicate this.)

[后来发生了]两件事情
(The) two things [which happened after]

深深地刺激了他
deeply upset him.

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