I will begin this post by noting that I’ve always enjoyed studying foreign tongues, albeit that I think you may’ve deduced this from some other posts. I particularly like observing the syntactics of a given language, as they allow me a great amount of subtle insight into the thought processes of the native speaker. Some may say that idioms are the aspects of a language that really express its speakers’ modes of thinking, but I think that the laws governing the syntax of a given language are bursting with information about those that utilize it. While the etymology of some words enables us to unearth a vast amount of information concerning the relations between the culture whence they stem and the culture currently employing them, syntax aids us in understanding the logical and analytical capabilities of a given population.
When I’m feeling brave, I approach idioms. I’ve never been socially capable; examining idioms almost feels as though I’m conversing with and attempting to comprehend people. It’s exhilaratingly frustrating.
In any case, I digress:
I’ve been learning Mandarin for approximately two years now; although my pronunciation remains absolutely atrocious, I can write in a moderately understandable manner.
When I first began learning to write in Chinese, I discovered that a functive verb could be utilized in combination with the particle 了 to denote that an action had occurred in the past. This was understandable enough.
Upon consulting several grammatical texts, however, I found that most did not distinguish between inserting the particle after the functive verb and inserting it at the end of the sentence. In other words, most resources claimed that both placements of 了 were syntactically sound, as depicted in the exceedingly simple example found below.
By dint of having rather obsessively read many Chinese texts, however, I determined the first usage (that is, 了at the end) to be more generally used (particularly in more complex sentences), and thus more desirable. Now, I recognize the latter form as being “unidiomatic”; so too, it seems, do most Chinese people.
However, what’s in an idiom? Does the former’s being the most accepted usage suggest anything about its speakers, from a psychological perspective?