The French causative lexicon and its equivalents in Chinese: Corpus, Methodology, Results

Author: CHEN Ping-Hsueh (Independent scholar)
Speaker: CHEN Ping-Hsueh
Topic: Anthropological Linguistics
The (SCOPUS / ISI) SOAS GLOCAL CALA 2020 General Session


The aim of this paper will be to compare morphosyntactic expressions of causality in French and Chinese. To do this, we will start from the scale of compactness of the Australian typologist R.M.W. Dixon (2000). This scale ranks the causative mechanisms in languages from the most compact to the least compact, namely: the causative verbs (Eng: walk, melt; Fr: causer, provoquer); the causative morphemes (Eng: lie / lay; Fr: simplifier, moderniser); the complex predicate (Fr: faire + Vinf) and the less grammaticalized causal periphrases (Eng: make somebody cry; Fr: forcer quelqu’un à + Vinf). This rank of causative mechanisms is an effective filter for the study of causality in languages (see Novakova, 2015: 106-107). We applied it to the analysis of the functioning of French causative mechanisms in comparison with Chinese. Our contrastive study is based on a bilingual parallel corpus. The latter is composed of 5 existing sub-corpuses on the Sketch Engine platform ( two corpuses of software manuals (KDE4 and OpenOffice3), one corpus of movie subtitles (OpenSubtittles2011) and two corpora of institutional texts (UN and MultiUN). The result of our study show that the French causative lexicon can be translated into Chinese by verbs such as 引起 yǐnqǐ (to lead to), 造成 zàochéng (to cause, to provoke), 导致 dǎozhì (to lead to), etc. and also by causative periphrasis, such as 使 shǐ (make) + non causative V2, 让 ràng (leave) + V2 non causative, etc. Note that Chinese causative periphrasis is one of the most commonly used ways of expressing causality (B. Basciano, 2010, 121-123; 2013: 57). The French verb causer can be translated by a causative periphrasis (使 shǐ, make + 陷入 xiànrù, sink):

(1) Ça va me causer des ennuis. (Sketch Engine)
你/将/使/我/陷入/麻烦 。
Litt. You/future marker/make/I/sink/troubles

Basciano, B. (2010). Verbal compounding and causativity in Mandarin Chinese (Thèse de doctorat). Università di Verona.
———. (2013). Causative light verbs in Mandarin Chinese (and beyond). Morphology in Toulouse. Selected Proceedings of Décembrettes 7, LINCOM Europa, 57-89.
Dixon, R.M.W. (2000). A typology of causatives: form, syntax and meaning. Dans R.M.W. Dixon & A. Aikhenvald (éds.), Changing valency. Case studies in transitivity (p. 30-83). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Novakova, I. (2015). Syntaxe et sémantique des prédicats – Approche contrastive etfonctionnelle. Éditions universitaires européennes.
Corpus Sketch Engine:

Keywords: causality, corpus linguistics, comparison/comparative study, Chinese equivalents