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Word structure

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Potential content

  • Affixes
  • Reduplication
    • Of verbs: gives sense of 'a little' or 'a bit'. Can also insert 一 between reduplicated characters.
    • Of adjectives: becomes more vivid
    • Of nouns: 'all' or 'every'
    • Of measure words: 'all' or 'every'
      • Only single character measure words can be reduplicated
    • Reduplicated syllable is neutral tone
    • Reduplication structures:
      • AB, ABAB, AABB, ABB
    • Some disyllabic words cannot be reduplicated (need listing)
    • Many kinship terms are reduplicated (and can't appear as single characters)
  • Compounds
    • Very difficult to define in Mandarin as lack of clear distinction between morphemes / words
    • Some compounds extremely idiomatic, little relation between component meaning and compound meaning, e.g. 花生
    • Others less idiomatic - compound source can be traced through components e.g. 矛盾
    • Finally, some compounds very obviously formed from components e.g. 洗澡
    • Compounds are formed frequently and creatively - can't be learned by rote
    • One interesting kind is a parallel compound - each component is equally important and has a similar meaning, e.g. 盗贼
    • Verbal compounds important in Mandarin
      • Result compounds
      • Direction compounds
      • Phase compounds
      • Metaphorical compounds
    • Verb-object compounds
    • Some words can be considered subject-predicate compounds e.g. 头疼

Sources and further reading