SOAS University of London

Department of Linguistics

Topics in the Structure of Chinese

Module Code:
Unit value:
Year of study:
Year 2 or Year 3
Taught in:
Term 1
This module investigates a number of selected grammatical constructions in Mandarin Chinese from the perspective of current linguistic theory. It is designed to extend the linguistics student’s ability by applying theoretical linguistic concepts to details of Chinese structure and to broaden the perspective of students of Chinese by introducing them to linguistic concepts.


Having taken an introductory module to language and linguistics (e.g. 152900069: General Linguistics or equivalent) and having an interest in knowing about the structure of Chinese. Knowledge of Chinese not required.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

At the end of the module students should have gained an analytical understanding of some of the fundamental characteristics of Chinese grammar from the perspectives of descriptive, comparative and formal/theoretical linguistics. They should have some familiarity with the research literature on a number of current issues and should be able to assess and evaluate the methodology, argumentation and evidence presented in support of alternative analyses. They will have used both linguistics and Chinese language resources and tools in their own investigation and analysis of primary Chinese data and will have developed their oral and written skills in presenting the results of their research.


Total of 10 weeks teaching with 2 hours classroom contact per week consisting of a 1 hour lecture and a 1 hour tutorial.

Scope and syllabus

This module is intended to introduce students to the analysis and description of the main grammatical properties of the Chinese language from the linguistic perspective. We will focus on the characteristic features of nominal and verbal constructions (primarily in Mandarin Chinese) and associated phenomena such as classifiers, tense and aspect, modification and word order, information structure, lexical semantics and clausal structure. The relevance of this research to areas such as morphology, semantics, typology, language change and variation, language acquisition and processing, and language learning and teaching is also considered.

Method of assessment

An essay of 1,500 words to be submitted on day 5, last week of teaching (50%); an essay of 1,500 words to be submitted on day 1, week 1, in the term following the one in which the module is taught (50%).

Suggested reading

Core Readings
  • Huang, C.-T. James, Y.-H. Audrey Li, Yafei Li (2009) The Syntax of Chinese, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.
  • Huang Chu-Ren and Dingxu Shi (2016) A Reference Grammar of Chinese, Cambridge University Press.
Additional Readings

Available from the convenor at the beginning of the module.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules