Parallel Concordancing in English and Chinese and Its Pedagogic Application

Wang Lixun

English for International Students Unit, University of Birmingham


Parallel concordancing allows linguists to place side by side for comparison two contexts produced for a given item – phrase, word or morpheme – one being a translation of the other. Nowadays, with the help of interactive concordancers, this procedure can be used for many purposes. For instance, one can look at the way a given structure is used in different styles or registers, or by different age groups, or by native and foreign speakers (King, 1989). What interests the author is that one can investigate across languages, such as English and Chinese, to find areas of coincidence and divergence between them. By comparing the lists of contexts obtained for an item in one language, with the translation of this concordance output in the other language, one can see how it is rendered according to varying contextual elements (Roussel, 1991).

Parallel condordancing has been carried out among European languages, but has not yet been extended to non-alphabetic languages such as Chinese. Electronically, Chinese characters must be represented in a 16-bit system, whereas alphabetic languages use a 7-bit or 8-bit system; there can be problems in coping with the correspondence between the graphic system of characters and its phonetic equivalent (such as Pinyin); Chinese has no spaces like those between English words; in addition, Chinese punctuation is different from English punctuation. However, all these and other problems can be overcome, as will be discussed in this paper.

Parallel concordancing in English and Chinese could be considered merely as an academic pursuit.  However, for the purposes of the present research it is a means to a pedagogic end.

1.  Technical aspects in realising parallel concordancing in English and Chinese

1.1.  Methods of coping with differences between English and Chinese

1.1.1.  Differences in language systems

Although the most obvious difference between Chinese and the European languages is that it is written in ideograms rather than alphabetic characters, it has other important features, such as no articles, no tenses, participles, gerunds, moods, or auxiliary verbs, and virtually no inflections. It concentrates not on form, but on function.

1.1.2.  Realisation of the system orthographically and electronically

Chinese Windows enables Chinese people to work with Chinese characters in the computer in an entirely Chinese environment. Although it is not suitable for users whose native language is English, there are several very good software packages which can handle Chinese characters in an English Windows environment, such as RichWin and NJStar, enabling both Chinese and English speakers to use the program.

These software packages provide various ways of inputting Chinese characters using a standard keyboard. The two most popular methods are Pinyin and Wubizixing. The Pinyin method allows the user to input a Chinese character by typing Pinyin and then selecting the Chinese character wanted from a list of characters with the same sound. The Wubizixing method uses more than fifty basic character roots; the user inputs Chinese characters by putting these roots together to form characters, each character needing no more than four strikes of the keys.

1.1.3. Comparing Chinese characters with English words in the computer

Written Chinese gives no indication of which characters are to be considered as words and which combine with others to form compound words. There are two possible methods of comparing Chinese characters with English words:

a. To insert spaces between words as in English, thus wo3 (I)  qi2 (ride)  zi4  xing2  che1 (bicycle) would be entered as wo3  qi2  zi4xing2che1. (For the benefit of English-speaking readers, Pinyin – Roman transcripts of Chinese characters – is used through out this paper, such as ‘wo3’. There are four distinct tones in Chinese, and also a fifth, neutral tone; the number at the end of each word is a tone marker.) When a Chinese text is typed the spaces can be inserted at the same time; if a book is scanned the spaces can be added with a few days’ work.  A computer program to insert the spaces automatically seems impracticable, since two successive characters may be either one or two ‘words’ according to the context.

After the spaces have been inserted, the computer will treat Chinese words in the same way as English ones. The problem is how people define ‘word’ in Chinese. There are different definitions, which makes the decision whether to insert spaces between characters difficult. For example, according to grammar rules, ban4 (half) tu2 (way) er2 (but) and fei4 (give up) are four words, which should be separated by spaces. But most Chinese people consider this four-character-combination as a word (give-up-half-way). This type of combination is very common in Chinese, having a similar function to that of an idiom in English, and the characters in it normally keep their original meanings rather than combine with others to form compound words. But unlike the English idiom, it can function as an adjective, adverb, or verb etc., so people quite often regard it as a ‘word’. Formerly, the author inserted spaces according to his own feeling for his mother language, which meant that someone searching the text might have to make several trials to match the author’s input.

b. To treat each Chinese character as a ‘word’. This will make pre-editing much easier, providing that a program is developed to insert spaces between Chinese characters automatically. NJStar Chinese Word Processor not only does this, but also can convert Chinese characters into Pinyin, which is very important for English-speaking people wanting to learn or pronounce Chinese.
Because of the problems associated with the first method, it was decided after many trials that the second method would be more practical, so inserting a space between every Chinese character is the technique now being used. This does not mean that the first method is not worth further experimentation.

1.1.4. Differences in punctuation

In ancient Chinese, there was no punctuation at all. Punctuation was introduced from western countries only at the end of the 19th century, and was popularised a few decades later. Basically, the function of Chinese punctuation is similar to that of English punctuation. But there are some differences: the full stop in Chinese is a small circle, not a dot as in English; in Chinese texts, colons appear before most quotation marks, while the equivalent in English is a comma, and the semicolon in Chinese sometimes plays the same function as a full stop in English.

1.2. Creating the English–Chinese Parallel Corpus

1.2.1. Selecting texts

The selection of parallel texts is very important. The principle of selecting English and Chinese texts is that they should be appropriate for college students to read, and that they should show a variety of genres – such as novels, biographies, newspapers, magazines, essays and scientific journals. To keep a balance, about half the source texts were in English and half in Chinese, and in each half the genres ranged over the needs and interests of the user. To ensure that the quality of translation was good, only published translations were selected.

1.2.2. Inputting texts

Initially, the method of inputting the texts was to scan in English texts and type in Chinese texts. Subsequently OCR software SunmiPage ScanInsert for scanning Chinese characters was purchased and Chinese texts were scanned and then edited.

A much faster way of creating the corpus is to download electronic English and Chinese texts from the Internet or CD-ROMs. This is becoming the favoured method, with texts available in a range of genres from novels and poetry to journals and academic writing. It is not too difficult to find texts in one language, but to get parallel texts in two languages takes some searching.

1.2.3. Marking up texts

The purpose of marking up texts is to allow a parallel concordancing program to recognise sentence and paragraph boundaries for aligning the parallel text, so that a sentence in one text can match its translation in the other text. In order to keep the size of the text files as small as possible, the author uses minimal marking up. The only necessary element for the author’s parallel concordancing program is <S> to identify sentence boundaries, as the program can recognise paragraph boundaries without special markers.

Electronically, each Chinese punctuation mark occupies two bytes, while each English mark occupies only one byte. This created problems for marking up Chinese texts. A program was successfully developed by the author to mark up Chinese text according to Chinese punctuation and English text according to English punctuation.

The following is a sample Pinyin text which has been marked up:

<S> ai4 li4 si1 meng4 you2 xian1 jing4
<S> di4 yi1 zhang1
<S> zuan4 jin4 tu4 zi3 dong4
<S> ai4 li4 si1 ai1 zhao2 jie3 jie5 zuo4 zai4 he2 an4 shang4, ta1 wu2 shi4 ke3 zuo4, kai1 shi3 jue2 de2 wu2 liao2 tou4 le5. <S>ta1 ceng2 wang3 jie3 jie5 zheng4 zai4 du2 zhao2 de5 shu1 shang4 pie1 le5 yi1 liang3 yan3, na3 shang4 mian4 ji4 mei2 you3 tu2 hua4, ye3 mei2 you3 dui4 hua4, “ji4 wu2 tu2 hua4, you4 wu2 dui4 hua4 de5 shu1 you3 shen2 me5 hao3 du2 de5?” ai4 li4 si1 xiang3.

1.3. Alignment

The main technical problem relates to the alignment method used for identifying equivalent sentences between texts. A major problem in aligning texts arises when the number of sentences in the source language differs from that in the target language. The situation could also arise where the number of sentences in a paragraph is the same, but the divisions between them do not coincide.

Tim Johns has pointed out that “most solutions are based on the assumptions that the usual pattern of translation is for one sentence to be translated by one sentence, and that short sentences are translated by short sentences, and longer ones by longer ones. This gives a match of patterning of short and long sentences between the original text and the translation that is close enough for places where it is disturbed to be clearly detectable, and for the program to test a range of hypotheses to account for the disturbance and thereby re-establish the match.” (Johns, 1999)

A program called Multiconc was developed in the university of Birmingham, and it gave satisfactory accuracy in automatic alignment of parallel texts in European languages (Woolls, 1998). However, an adaptation of this program to align texts in English, Chinese and Pinyin achieved an accuracy of less than 50%. The decision was then taken that for the present research the texts would be pre-aligned – which of course gives an accuracy of 100%. That accuracy is achieved at the cost of time-consuming pre-editing of the texts.

1.4. The Program: English–Chinese Parallel Concordancer

A program called ‘English–Chinese Parallel Concordancer’ has been developed successfully by the author. A screen shot of the program is shown in Fig. 1:

Fig. 1: Screen shot of English–Chinese Parallel Concordancer

The program allows the user to type in a search word in the ‘search box’, and choose whether case should be matched, and then choose a Search Language and a Target Language. Three choices are available: English, Chinese and Pinyin. Then, the user needs to select a text file from the file list, for example, ‘Wildgrs.en’. The extension of the filenames will change when a different search language is selected. The extension ‘en’ means English, ‘cn’ means Chinese and ‘py’ means Pinyin. The program provides three ways of concordancing: 1) Monolingual Concordance, Key Word In Context; 2) Monolingual Concordance, Sentence by Sentence; 3) Parallel Concordance, Sentence by Sentence. The user can also control the maximum search hits and, after making all the necessary choices and pressing the ‘Search’ button, will get the result shown in Fig. 2:

Fig. 2: Parallel concordance of ‘now’

The text can be edited and saved as a rich text file (.rtf) ready for analysis.

2. Pedagogic application of parallel concordancing in English and Chinese

The purpose of developing parallel concordancing in English and Chinese is to apply it in language learning.

In order to illustrate how parallel concordancing can be applied pedagogically, the adverb ‘xian4zai4’ (now) will be analysed in detail below, using the result of parallel concordancing:

Seventy examples were found in four different texts, as shown in Table 1.

Table 1: Number of examples of ‘xian4zai4’ (now) in four texts
Origin Title Size (kb) No. of sentences Examples found
English Alice in Wonderland (abridged)  40 447 17
I Have a Dream 9 81 7
Chinese Mimosa (part) 80 864 25
Wild Grass 76 938 21

The following abbreviations as used by Li and Thompson (1981) were used in the examples:
Abbreviation Term
T Translation
O Origin
CRS currently relevant state (le)
PFV perfective aspect (le)
ASSOC associative (de)
GEN genitive (de)
CL classifier
3sg third person singular pronoun
Q question

The examples are classified into four main groups for discussion. In order to compare Chinese with English more clearly, Pinyin ‘words’ – as described in section 1.1.3.a. – are used in the examples. The following data relate to the 70 examples summarised in Table 1.

Group 1: Subject or topic + xian4zai4 (now), 20 examples

A) xian4zai4 = now.

In this case, the Chinese word ‘xian4zai4’ is similar in function to the English word ‘now’ although in Chinese ‘xian4zai4’ immediately follows the subject, while in English ‘now’ follows ‘subject + be’.
For example:

(1) T: di2que4 shi4 zhe4yang4:  ta1  xian4zai4  zhi1   you3 shi2 ying1cun4 gao1 le5, ......
           truly        be     like this     3sg       now      only  have  ten       inch       high  CRS
     O: And so it was indeed: she was now only ten inches high, … (Alice)

(2) T: shi4shi2shang4, ta1 xian4zai4     yi3     yuan3     bu4zhi3       jiu3 ying1chi3 gao1, ......
              in fact           3sg    now       already  much   not less than  nine    feet        high
     O: in fact she was now rather more than nine feet high, …(Alice)

(3) T: ta1  wan2quan2 wang4ji4 le5 ta1  xian4zai4       bi3     tu4zi3 da4 shang4 yi1qian1   bei4,
         3sg  completely   forget    PFV   3sg       now      compare  rabbit big  up   a thousand  times
     O: …quite forgetting that she was now about a thousand times as large as the Rabbit, (Alice)

(4) O: wo3 xian4zai4 yi3jing1  cheng2   le5  ming2   fu4 qi2 shi2 de5 gong1ren2 ......
           I        now     already   become  PFV  name agree that fact GEN  worker
      T: I was now a bona fide worker … (Mimosa)

We can design a simple exercise using the above examples:

Read the following Chinese sentences carefully, then find out what word is missing from the English sentences.

C: di2que4 shi4 zhe4yang4:  ta1  xian4zai4  zhi1   you3 shi2 ying1cun4 gao1 le5, ......
     truly      be     like this     3sg       now      only  have  ten       inch       high  CRS
E: And so it was indeed: she ________ now only ten inches high, … (Alice)

C: wo3 xian4zai4 yi3jing1  cheng2   le5  ming2 fu4 qi2 shi2 de5 gong1ren2 ......
     I       now      already   become  PFV  name agree that fact GEN  worker
E: I ________ now a bona fide worker … (Mimosa)

B) Contrastive ‘xian4zai4’

The following are examples of ‘xian4zai4’ (second position) and ‘now’ (first position) showing time contrast:

(5) T: wo3 xian4zai4 la1 chang2 de2 xiang4 shi4jie4shang4 zui4da4  de5 wang4yuan3jing4 na3 yang4!
           I       now     stretch   as   like   in the world  largest GEN  telescope    that like
     O: "Now I’m opening out like the largest telescope that ever was! (Alice)

In this example, ‘wo3’ is the topic of the sentence, ‘now’ + the rest of the sentence is the comment, so in the Chinese version ‘I’ appears at the beginning of the sentence, in front of ‘now’.  In the English version, ‘now’ is the topic – putting it at the beginning of the sentence is for contrast. In the context, Alice was shrinking at first, then back to her normal size, then ‘opening’ like a telescope – there is a sequence of action. Retrospective contrast was used here. The contrastive effect is probably shown by intonation (referring tone, high key) (David Brazil).

The following is a similar example:

(6) T: wo3 xian4 zai4     yi3      wu2    ji4   ke3      shi1     le5.
           I        now       already    no   plan  can   carry out CRS
     O: Now I can do no more, whatever happens. (Alice)

We have already encountered several alreadys immediately following ‘xian4zai4’ in Chinese. This ‘already’ in Chinese, seems to show the tense of the verb. It means, ‘up to now, something has happened, and the state has changed.’ It can be past tense, present tense or perfective tense, as shown in the following example:

(7) T: "hao3la5, wo3 de5 ji4hua4 xian4zai4 yi3jing1 wan2cheng2 le5   yi1 ban4!"
             OK            my       plan         now      already      finish      PFV    one half
     O: "Come, there’s half my plan done now!" (Alice)

In English, ‘now’ is placed at the end of the sentence for retrospective contrast. This never occurs in Chinese, where most of the time it immediately follows the subject or topic. The following is another example illustrating this difference:

(8) T: "wo3 ----  wo3 xian4 zai4 jian3zhi2 nong4 bu4 qing1chu3, xian1sheng1 ---- ......"
             I             I       now          almost    make  not   clear               sir
      O: "I -- I hardly know, Sir, just at present -- …"  (Alice)

Here, prospective contrast was used, as the writer was referring to the future.

C) ‘xian4zai4’ occurs in the Chinese text, but ‘now’ is omitted from the English translation:

(9) O: wo3 xian4zai4 bu4 chi1 zhi1shi4 wo3 bu4 xiang3 chi1 ta1 ba4 le5.
            I        now        not  eat   only         I     not   want   eat   3sg     CRS
     T: But I didn’t choose to just yet. (Mimosa)

This example shows how the English translation simplified the original Chinese sentence. There are two parallel sentence structures in the Chinese sentence, the first stating the fact that ‘I now (do) not eat’, the second telling the reason ‘I (do) not want (to) eat’. The context told us the author was in a state of starvation most of the time, so to be able to choose whether to eat or not was very satisfying. The English translation used prospective contrast, and it simplified the sentence, so the implied feeling is not as strong as in the Chinese version.

(10) O: wo3 xian4 zai4 shi4 "zu3 zhang3" le5, geng4 zhu3yao4  de5  shi4 ......
             I         now         be    group leader PFV even    main     GEN   be
        T: Because I was "group leader" and, even more, … (Mimosa)

In this example, ‘now’ was dropped in the English translation, because the translator thought the past tense ‘was’ was clear enough and ‘now’ was not necessary. In the Chinese version, the combination ‘now … le (PFV)’ serves the same purpose as ‘was’.

(11) O: wo3 xiang3 ta1 bu4 shi4 sui2 kou3 zhe4yang4 shuo1 de5, ke3neng2 shi4 you3yi4shi4di4
        I     think   3sg not   be   casually   in this way speak            may       be    intentionally
        yao4 rang4 wo3 zhi1dao4 wo3 xian4zai4 bu4 tong2 yu2 guo4qu4 de5 shen1fen1.
        want  let       I       know      I         now      not   same           past              status
       T: I suspected that he said this to let me know my changed status. (Mimosa)

The Chinese version used contrastive structures twice: ‘casually in this way speak’ vs. ‘intentionally want let I know’ and ‘now’ vs. ‘past’, but they were both dropped in the English translation. This is an interesting phenomenon, and may show that Chinese tends to use the contrastive structure frequently to make the meaning absolutely clear, resulting in long and complicated sentences. On the other hand, English tends to drop these contrastive structures to make sentences simpler. We often presume that Chinese is a simple language, as it has no morphological variation, and it commonly drops subject, verb and object. But now we see an example of the complicated side of the Chinese language.

(12) O: na3me5, wo3 xian4 zai4 sheng1huo2 yu2 qi2jian1 de5 zhe4ge4 xin1 de5 sheng1cun2
               then      I          now          live           in     between         this      new             living
       huan2jing4     shi4 zen3yang4 de5 ne5?
       surroundings   be      what     GEN  Q
       T: So what about my life in these new surroundings? (Mimosa)

Again ‘now’ was dropped in the English translation, which is very reasonable: one cannot live in the past in ‘new surroundings’. Although it sounds redundant, the word ‘now’ should not be dropped from the Chinese sentence. This is another example of the complicated side of Chinese.

D) Subordinate clause: ‘now that …’

(13) O: wo3men5 xian4zai4 shi4 gong1ren2 le5, ......
                we             now        be     worker  CRS
        T: Still, now that we were workers … (Mimosa)

In this example, the quote is a subordinate clause, with the main clause to follow. The Chinese subordinate clause is no different from a normal sentence, but the English clause used ‘now that’, which is a fixed pattern for subordinate clauses.

(14) O: ke3shi4 wo3 xian4zai4 hen3 hui1fu4  le5  xie1    li4qi4  le5.
             but       I          now      very  recover PFV some strength PFV
        T: But I feel much better now. (Wild Grass)

From the data, we can see that the ‘I now’ combination in Chinese is very common, but there is not a single ‘I now’ in the English examples. To find out in what circumstance ‘I now’ occurs in English, the author did some monolingual concordancing and the following are examples of ‘I now’ occurring in the 1997 ‘Guardian’ newspaper in a CD-ROM. From the first 100 examples, where several sentences have the same verb following ‘I now’, only the first has been selected, and the numbers missing from the list below show which sentences were deleted:

    1 road. A few months ago a company which I now advise was shortlisted for a contra
    4 mittee. >As a member of that committee I now appeal for a public debate, whose o
    5 ped one of my single friends, for what I now assume was the same reason. As I ha
    8 he exports were for innocent purposes. I now believe he deceived me.’’ >Lord Tre
   12 ns of vermin is no longer possible. So I now call on the Church to use its power
   14 watered with the leaden sense of shame I now carried around led to a silent, mut
   16 t after his ‘‘inadvertent’’ remarks: ‘‘I now consider the matter closed.’’ >The
   18  my enormous appetite for tea: >A meal I now decidedly detest, >But which, in th
   19 lace - as leaders of political change. I now discover that for my students in th
   21 zing luck involved no other vehicle. >`I now do all my journeys by pedal power.
   22 dvertising Standards Authority? And am I now entitled to a sizeable refund under
   23 nal consolidation among carriers. >But I now expect to see a fresh impetus in th
   24 scent economy could regain its vigour. I now fear, however, that it is virtually
   25  would further many things for me. But I now feel that I’ve come back home.’’ >-
   28 he magnitude of their relinquishment. >I now find myself, after 35 years as a co
   33  flat seemed convinced I was in there: I now have a collection of the notes that
   46 day-dream when they see one. >However, I now hear that a couple living near here
   49  But whichever analysis you make - and I now incline to the electorate as unforg
   50 t is an inevitable implication of what I now intend to do that I attach less imp
   51 s biggest test as a manager. He said: ‘I now know that I have to go out and get
   63 king, and Sinkin Spells is the sequel, I now learn from Berkeley, to White Trash
   64 or all I know, Mass cards and candles, I now make clear that when I speculated a
   66 rd to believe,’’ she greeted me, ‘‘but I now own a factory.’’ Her son was safe,
   67 e back for the fifth time in 10 years. I now plan to go back to sunny and blissf
   68  I could not bear to wait >any longer. I now possess a Coventry >(without the ne
   69  over my best olive oil, I have to say I now prefer it without the garlic. Simpl
   70  unscientific definition of futurology I now propose to hazard a few guesses of
   72 eading trashy novels in the dormitory. I now realise that she has all the charac
   76 cle on a similar subject some time ago I now receive less junk mail. I was compl
   77  another snowfall, is strewn with what I now >recognise as the regurgitated pell
   78 rote about him was rude, and of course I now regret that. But he was a politicia
   79 ated enemies of the new movement . . . I now see that my crime had been to strik
   82 ce to the wildest stories. >As for me, I now seem to be barred from going back t
   83 sult me before changing investments. >‘I now speak to them at least once a month
   85 took it seriously and it took forever. I now take a relaxed view. I have a chat,
   88  to avoid naming her status publicly. >I now think this to be a mistake. I shoul
   91 ,’’ he said. >Ferguson was offended: ‘‘I now understand why clubs come away from
   93  seen around this time of the year. >‘‘I now want to take action to reduce the c
   96 ithout the Nicholson. I just hope that I now won’t need to part with anything el
   97 t the coincidence is too alarming, and I now wonder whether Hick can ever make t
   98 the job.’ That was nearly a year ago. `I now work for Chris 24 hours a day, seve
From the above examples, we can see that the verbs following ‘I now’ are predominantly verbs showing people’s feeling to the outside world, such as advise, believe, discover, feel, find, have, know, learn, realise, see, think, understand and wonder. It is interesting to find that ‘I’ is nearly always the topic of that sentence. It shows that English has the same characteristics as Chinese in these circumstances, putting topic at the beginning of the clause.

Group 2: xian4zai4 (now) + subject, 15 examples

It seems that the ‘subject + xian4zai4’ structure and the ‘xian4zai4 + subject’ structure are free variables, but after much study, some rules have been found to distinguish between the two structures.

A) Contrastive ‘xian4zai4’ (now)

In the ‘xian4zai4 + subject’ structure, ‘xian4zai4’ is placed in front of the subject to contrast with what happened in the past. We give it a name ‘Contextual Contrast Adverbial Structure’.

For example:

(15) T: xian4 zai4 wo3  hao3    xie1   le5 --
              now          I     good  a little  PFV
       O: I’m better now – (Alice)
       (Contextual Contrast (CC): I was kicked out of the chimney by Alice just now.)

(16) T: xian4 zai4, wo3 jiu4 ren4wei2 wo3 zai4 jing1shen2 shang4 he2 wu4zhi2 shang4 dou1 ya1 dao4 le5 ta1.
              now      I            think    I    in     spirit              and  material    both press down PFV 3sg
       O: Now I’d got the better of him again. (Mimosa)
       (CC: I used to feel humble in front of him.)

(17) O: xian4zai4, zhi1you3 zhe4 ben3 shu1 zuo4wei2 wo3 he2 li3nian4 shi4jie4 de5 lian2xi4 le5......
               now        only       this   CL  book     as         I    and intellect   world GEN link  PFV
       T: This book was now my sole link with the rational world of the intellect ... (Mimosa)
       (CC: I used to have other links with the rational world of the intellect.)

(18) O: xian4zai4 wo3 suo3 jian4 de5 gu4shi4 qing1chu3 qi3lai2 le5 ......
                now        I             see           story        clear      become PFV
        T: Now the story that I saw became clearer … (Wild Grass)
        (CC: The story was not clear in the past.)

We can explain the above phenomenon with the ‘topic-prominence’ theory as well: in the above sentences, ‘xian4zai4’ are topics of the sentences, so they are at the beginning of the Chinese sentences, as Chinese is a topic-prominent language (Li & Thompson, 1981).

B) ‘now’ omitted in translation

(19) O: zhi2 dao4 xian4zai4 wo3men5 hai2 mo1 bu4 qing1 ta1 shi4 gan1bu4 hai2shi4 gong1ren2.
             up  to       now            we     still  feel  not  clear 3sg  be   cadre   or    be     worker
        T: but we didn’t know whether he was a cadre or a farm-hand. (Mimosa)

This is a non-contrastive use of ‘xian4zai4’. In the Chinese version, ‘xian4zai4’ was used to clearly show the time, while in the English version, the word ‘now’ was omitted, because the past tense ‘didn’t know’ was clear enough to show the time.

(20) O: xian4zai4 wo3 zhi1dao4 ta1 shi4 dui4 shang4 de5 bao3guan3yuan2 jian1 guan3li3yuan2 ......
             now        I       know   3sg  be   team  up   GEN    storekeeper    and      manager
        T: I’d heard that he was storekeeper … (Mimosa)

This is an example similar to the previous one, the word ‘now’ being omitted in the English translation.

C) ‘now’ used at discourse level

(21) O: xian4zai4  shui2 ye3 kan4 bu4 jian4, jiu4 shi4   shui2 ye3 bu4 shou4 ying3xiang3.
               now      whoever    look not   see        as   be    whoever     not  receive  effect
       T: Now no one had seen me, so no one would be affected. (Wild Grass)

This is a reflective use of ‘now’. It is an internal monologue. This is the use of ‘now’ at discourse level.

Group 3: Pro-drop (or Zero Pronouns), 25 examples

In Mandarin, noun phrases that are understood from the context do not need to be specified. This is referred to as ‘pro-drop’ (Huang, 1989).

According to Chomsky (1981,1982), the distribution of pro-drop is assumed, following Taraldsen (1978), to be determined by the principle of recoverability, or what Jaeggi (1982) terms the ‘identification hypothesis.’ The idea is that a pronoun may be dropped from a given sentence only if certain important aspects of its reference can be recovered from other parts of the sentence.

A) Pro-drop occur in both languages.

(22) T: "xian4 zai4     na3  bian1 shi4 na3 bian1?"
                  now       which  side   be  which side
       O: "And now which is which?" (Alice)

“I wonder” was dropped from above example.

B) Pro-drop in both languages, but verb added in Chinese translation.

(23) T: "xian4zai4    gai1    dao4 hua1yuan2 li3qu4 la5!"
                  now       should  go to   garden      into      !
       O: "And now for the garden!" (Alice)

Here pro-drop occurred in both languages. ‘I am heading’ was dropped. In the English version, the verb was also dropped, but in the Chinese translation, the verb ‘go’ was added. We generally think Chinese drops verbs far more often than English does, but here it is the other way round. A similar example follows:

(24) T: "kuai4dian3, xian4zai4            jiu4          qu4!"
                 quick            now        immediately        go
        O: "Quick, now!" (Alice)

The verb ‘go’ was added in the Chinese translation. Without the verb ‘go’, the Chinese sentence would sound weird. Yet another example:

T: ba3 ta1de5  tou2   tai2 gao1 --  xian4zai4    na2   bai2lan2di4 lai2 --
    BA     his      head  raise high            now     bring     brandy     come
O: "Hold up his head -- Brandy now -- (Alice)

It seems that in the above Chinese sentences, ‘the law of least effort’ was not followed.

C) Subject ‘it’ dropped in Chinese translation.

(25) T:  xian4zai4 hou4hui3 wei2 shi2         yi3 wan3.
               now         regret       time      already  late
       O: It was too late to wish that. (Alice)

In this example, the subject ‘it’ was dropped from the Chinese translation, because there is no such subject in Chinese. The word ‘now’ was added in the Chinese translation as a time marker. The past tense ‘was’ in English has made it clear, but in Chinese, the word ‘xian4zai4’ is needed to show the time period.

D) ‘now’ omitted in English translation

(26) T: "wo3 yi3qian2  ji4de2       de5 shi4qing2, xian4zai4        ji4        bu4 de2 le5 ......
              I      before  remember  GEN   things        now         remember  not GEN PFV
       O: "I can’t remember things as I used to … (Alice)

The word ‘now’ was omitted in English translation, because the present tense ‘can’t’ is clear enough without ‘now’. The following is a similar example:

(27) O: xian4zai4  ju3   ji1ge4      li4    ba5.
                now       cite   a few  example SA
        T: To cite a few examples. (Mimosa)

E) Subject restored in English translation

All the following examples show that subjects dropped in the Chinese sentences were restored in the English translations:

(28) O: xian4zai4 you4   ying3   yi1ban1 si3diao4 le5 ......
                now      again  shadow    like      die         PFV
        T: And now I had died like a flitting shadow ... (Wild Grass)

(29) O: si3   de5 huo3yan4, xian4zai4 xian1 de2dao4 le5 ni3 le5!
           dead GEN flame            now     first      have  PFV you PFV
       T: Dead flame, now at last I had you! (Wild Grass)

(30) O: ran2er2 xian4zai4 he2yi3 ru2   ci3 ji2mo4?
               but            now       why   like  this  lonely
       T: But why is it now so lonely? (Wild Grass)

(31) O: ran2er2 xian4zai4 mei2you3 xing1 he2 yue4guang1 ......
              but           now     not have    star   and  moonlight
       T: But now there are neither stars nor moonlight … (Wild Grass)

Using the above materials, we can design another exercise:
Fill in the missing subject in the blanks:

O: ran2er2 xian4zai4 mei2you3 xing1 he2 yue4guang1......
         but           now     not have    star   and  moonlight
T: But now ________ are neither stars nor moonlight … (Wild Grass)

O: ran2er2 xian4zai4 he2yi3 ru2   ci3 ji2mo4?
        but            now       why   like  this  lonely
T: But why is ________ now so lonely? (Wild Grass)

Group 4: xian4zai4 = ‘now/this is the/no time’, 5 examples

 (32) T: xian4zai4 shi4 shi3 shang4di4 suo3you3 hai2zi3 zhen1zheng4 xiang3you3 gong1zheng4 de5 shi2hou4.
             now    be make  God      all        child       really        have          justice    GEN  time
       O: Now is the time to open the doors of opportunity to all of God’s children. (Dream)

(33) O: dan4 xian4zai4 bu4 shi4 shui4jiao4 de5 shi2hou4.
             but        now     not   be     sleep      GEN   time
        T: But this was no time for sleep. (Mimosa)

Group 5: ‘xian4zai4’ as a noun, 5 examples

(34) O: wo3 you4 jue2de2 xian4zai4 shi4 chang2 e4meng4 ......
               I     also   feel             now     be   CL     nightmare
       T: sometimes the present seemed a nightmare ... (Mimosa)

(35) O: …ran2er2 chou2hen4 ta1men2 de5 xian4zai4.
                  but            hate          their  GEN    now
        T: …but hate their present. (Wild Grass)

The tree diagram in Fig. 3 shows different uses of ‘now’ in English and Chinese.

                                            xian4zai4 (now)
                                          /                             \
            discourse level                                 textual level
                  /            \                                          /                   \
reflective use   interative use        contrastive          non-contrastive
                                                                /         \                          /            \
                                                          time    polaritive    emphatic   as a noun

                    Fig. 3: The tree diagram of the use of ‘xian4zai4’ (now)

We believe that two language learning approaches will benefit greatly from parallel concordancing:

--Data-Driven Learning (DDL)

The distinctive feature of the Data-Driven Learning approach to inductive language teaching is that the language data are primary, and the teacher does not know in advance exactly what rules or patterns the learner will discover. The English-Chinese Parallel Concordancer can produce two-way data-driven learning materials for language learners of both Chinese and English. The teacher will be the director and co-ordinator of student-initiated research. The DDL approach makes possible a new style of "grammatical consciousness-raising" by placing the learner’s own discovery of grammar at the centre of language-learning, and by making it possible for that discovery to be based on evidence from authentic language use (Johns, 1991).
--Reciprocal Learning (RL)

Problems of speakers of English learning Chinese and of speakers of Chinese learning English are similar or at least complementary. The best learning situation for both sides may be one in which they can help each other in a structured setting. This is called Reciprocal Learning (Johns, 1999).

Using the English–Chinese Parallel Corpus, and the English–Chinese Parallel Concordancer, materials can be developed to be used equally well to teach English to speakers of Chinese, and Chinese to speakers of English. Most Chinese people are not familiar with Chinese grammar, and the same thing applies to English speakers. It would be very interesting to see how the Chinese learners and English learners help each other to discover their own grammar rules.

In general, English speakers learning Chinese may start from the very beginning, while most Chinese speakers who want to improve their English have already grasped the basic principles of the language. In reciprocal learning, output of the parallel concordancing must be carefully selected to meet the need of both sides.


Technically, parallel concordancing between English and Chinese has been established successfully, though there is still much to be done to improve the algorithm of the program. We believe that the parallel concordancer is one of the most powerful tools that computer science can offer to language researchers. With the help of this tool, linguists now have the chance of making many revolutionary discoveries in language studies, which was highly improbable before the era of parallel concordancing. New language learning approach such as DDL and RL will now have a much more prosperous future with the support of parallel concordancing.


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