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Valency of 上报; verbs needing passive in English (but not Chinese)

3 December 2015 (2nd major rewrite Dec 2016)

The 京华时报 jīnghuá shíbào (Beijing Times) of 24 November 2015 carried an article with the title:

个人所得税改革方案最快年底上报
gèrén suǒdéshuì gǎigé fāng'àn zuì kuài niándǐ shàngbào
'Personal income tax reform proposal submitted by year end at earliest'

What is interesting is the grammar of the word 上报 shàngbào, which means 'to submit a report to a higher authority'. The translation of 逐级上报 zhújí shàngbào 'submit to the next level of authority' into English in legal contexts is discussed at Proz: 逐级上报.


1. Argument structure of 上报 shàngbào
2. Argument structure of 上报 shàngbào in the passage
3. Alternative argument structure
4. Argument structure of 上报 shàngbào in the headline
5. 上報 shàngbao in linked verb constructions (from the Web)
6. Verbs that require the passive in English


1. Argument structure of 上报 shàngbào

Weblio analyses the argument structure of the verb 上报 shàngbào as follows:

’ + object 1 + 上报 + object 2 (place)

The superficial strangeness of the construction is due to the use of the construction to mark the patient (object 1) and the use of ordinary direct object to mark the recipient (object 2).

This is somewhat similar to the English secundative construction, "I gave my friend a book". The book is the patient (object given) and my friend is the recipient. This could be represented as:

give + object 1 (recipient) + object 2 (patient)

In English, this is regarded as a variation on the more explicit sentence "I gave a book to my friend", represented as:

give + object 1 (patient) + to + object 2 (recipient)

In Chinese, however, this kind of structure is not a member of corresponding pairs like the English; it is a rather unusual and isolated structure.


2. Argument structure of 上報 shàngbao in the passage

Before we tackle the problem of the headline, let us look at 上報 shàngbao within the text of the article:

近期财政部税政司多次组织专家开会研讨,个税改革方案已出具雏形,财政部最快今年年底或明年年初可能将改革草案上报中央和国务院。
jìnqī cáizhèng bù shuì zhèngsī duō cì zǔzhī zhuānjiā kāihuì yántǎo, gè shuì gǎigé fāng'àn yǐ chūjù chúxíng, cáizhèng bù zuì kuài jīnnián niándǐ huò míngnián niánchū kěnéng jiāng gǎigé cǎo'àn shàngbào zhōngyāng hé guówùyuàn.

'Recently the Ministry of Finance Tax Policy Department has organized experts to hold meetings and discuss [the issue], giving shape to a preliminary tax reform program. The Ministry of Finance may submit the reform proposal to the central government and the State Council by the end of this year or early next year.'

Extracting the relevant structure:

财政部...可能改革草案上报中央和国务院
cáizhèng bù ... kěnéng jiāng gǎigé cǎo'àn shàngbào zhōngyāng hé guówùyuàn

* The subject of 上报 shàngbào is 财政部 cáizhèng bù 'Ministry of Finance'.

* Object 1 of 上报 shàngbào is 改革草案 gǎigé cǎo'àn 'tax reform proposal'. This is marked with jiāng, the formal written equivalent of the construction. This indicates that it is the tax reform proposal that is to be submitted. That is, the proposal is the patient.

* Object 2 of 上报 shàngbào is 中央和国务院 zhōngyāng hé guówùyuàn 'central government and State Council'. This direct object is the recipient.


3. Alternative argument structure

Given the peculiar nature of the argument structure of 上报 shàngbào, it's not surprising that alternative structures are sometimes found that are not strictly speaking 'correct'. For instance, this sporting article uses gěi 'to give' to spell out the recipient more clearly:

俱乐部...在收集材料,准备将此事上报中国篮协
jùlèbù...zài shōují cáiliào, zhǔnbèi jiāng cǐ shì shàngbào gěi zhōngguó lán xié
'the Club...is collecting material and will submit this matter to the China Basketball Association'

gěi clearly indicates the recipient of the submission, bringing the structure more in line with other constructions in Chinese.


4. Argument structure of 上报 shàngbào in the headline

If we look at the headline quoted, 个人所得税改革方案最快年底上报 gèrén suǒdéshuì gǎigé fāng'àn zuì kuài niándǐ shàngbào, we notice that the arguments of the word 上报 shàngbào are unclear.

We know from the article that 个人所得税改革方案 gèrén suǒdéshuì gǎigé fāng'àn 'personal income tax reform proposal' is Object 1 (patient), marked with jiāng. In the headline, however, the patient has been made the topic of the sentence (or, according to some linguists, it is now the subject of the sentence).

This is common in Chinese sentences, in which objects can be freely topicalised, thus obscuring the argument structure. Translating into English, however, the argument structure must be strictly retained. Since 'submit' is a transitive verb with 'report' as its object, putting 'report' in subject position requires the passive voice ('be submitted'). It's not normal in English to say 'the report submitted'. (That is not to say that there is not a lot of flexibility in English, with verbs that can switch between different argument structures, but the argument structures themselves are the bedrock on which this switching is based).

The only other use of 上报 shàngbào in the article is:

在即将上报的个税改革方案中,首先要解决的问题就是哪些个人收入继续分类征收个税,哪些收入纳入综合征收范围。
Zài jíjiāng shàngbào de gè shuì gǎigé fāng'àn zhōng, shǒuxiān yào jiějué de wèntí jiùshì nǎxiē gèrén shōurù jìxù fēnlèi zhēngshōu gèshuì, nǎxiē shōurù nàrù zònghé zhēngshōu fànwéi.

'In the soon-to-submit tax reform program, the first problem to be solved is which personal income should continue to be taxed as personal income, and which should be included in the scope of comprehensive collection of revenue'

即将上报 jíjiāng shàngbào 'will soon submit' is an adnominal clause modifying 个人所得税改革方案 gèrén suǒdéshuì gǎigé fāng'àn 'personal income tax reform proposal'. The clause itself does not clearly identify whether the personal income tax proposal is the subject or object of 上报 shàngbào, leaving it indeterminate.

Again, English would normally require passive voice here since 'submit' has clearly defined arguments: a subject (the agent), an object (the patient), and an indirect object (the recipient). Given that the report is the object of the verb, the verb must be made passive ('soon to be submitted').


5. 上報 shàngbao in linked verb constructions (from the Web)

The following is a sentence that appeared at Techweb. What is interesting about this sentence is the use of two linked verb expressions using 上报 shàngbào (underlined):

网络上流传着很多关于游戏上报被驳回的消息,游戏公司将内容上报审核,但遭到“打回”处理。
Wǎngluò-shàng liúchuán-zhe hěn duō guānyú yóuxì shàngbào bèi bóhuí de xiāoxī, yóuxì gōngsī jiāng nèiróng shàngbào shěnhé, dàn zāodào “dǎ huí” chǔlǐ.

'On the Internet, information about games submitted and being rejected is circulating; the game company submits content for approval but it meets with "return" treatment'

In the first linked verb construction, the argument structure is:

Topic (游戏 yóuxì 'game')
+ Verb one (上报 shàngbào 'submit')
+ Verb two in bèi construction (被驳回 bèi bóhuí 'be rejected').

The agent of the action is omitted. Given that the topic of this clause, 游戏 yóuxì, is the semantic object of the verb here, it should be possible to use the passive bèi form with 上报 shàngbào. Indeed, examples of 上报 shàngbào with passive voice form can be found on the Internet:

(from a headline)

在台湾打骂领队 武汉不文明游客被上报国家旅游局
zài táiwān dǎ mà lǐngduì wǔhàn bù wénmíng yóukè bèi shàngbào guójiā lǚyóu jú
'An uncivilised tourist who hit and cursed a tour leader in Taiwan has been reported to the National Tourism Administration'
作弊被上报取消学位证了,该怎么办?
zuòbì bèi shàngbào qǔxiāo xuéwèi zhèngle, gāi zěnme bàn?
'I cheated, was reported, and had my degree cancelled. What should I do?'

But 被 bèi is not used with 上报 shàngbào in our example above. Instead, 被 bèi is attached only to the second verb in the series, 被驳回 bèi bóhuí. This gives a peculiar argument structure for the two linked verbs:

游戏上报
yóuxì shàngbào

'game submit', that is, 游戏 yóuxì is the subject of 上报 shàngbào even though it is notionally the patient

游戏被驳回
yóuxì bèi bóhuí

'game was rejected', in which 游戏 yóuxì is the patient of the action of 驳回 bóhuí

That is, even though 'report' is clearly the patient at both 上报 shàngbào and 驳回 bóhuí, only 驳回 bóhuí is marked with bèi. This kind of argument structure in linked verbs is quite common in Chinese but is peculiar when seen from English, which requires both verbs to be put in the passive voice.

What this demonstrates is that bèi cannot be simply equated to the English passive voice. Traditionally, in Chinese this verb conveys a sense of adversity or victimisation. From the point of view of the submitter (who does not appear among the arguments of either verb), the sense of the linked verbs is quite clear and easily understood: 'We submitted the report but it was rejected, to our detriment'.

The second linked verb construction is:

游戏公司将内容上报审核
yóuxì gōngsī jiāng nèiróng shàngbào shěnhé
'Game companies submit approve content'

The construction is:

Agent (游戏公司 yóuxì gōngsī 'game company')
+ Object 1 in jiāng construction (将内容 jiāng nèiróng 'content' as object)
+ Verb 1 (上报 shàngbào 'submit')
+ Verb 2 (审核 shěnhé 'to check').

This construction combines the 上报 shàngbào construction with 审核 shěnhé 'to check'. The jiāng construction belongs to 上报 shàngbào, with 内容 nèiróng as the object.

The relationship of 审核 shěnhé is somewhat different. While 内容 nèiróng is clearly the object of the verb 审核 shěnhé, its subject (or agent) is quite different. The agent of the verb is clearly the competent authorities, although this is not mentioned among the arguments of the verb. Approval of the content must be understood as the aim of the first action and does not indicate whether or not it was successfully completed. The meaning of the whole is 'submit for approval'. This a conventional construction in bureaucratic Chinese.

What is of greatest interest about these linked verb constructions is the great looseness of argument structure compared with the requirements of English.


6. Verbs that require the passive in English

There are at least two other verbs in our original sentence that require a passive in English but are not marked as passive in Chinese.

1) 首先要解决的问题 shǒuxiān yào jiějué de wèntí ('first need-solving problem') is active in Chinese, with unspecified subject. In a literal rendering, English requires us to say 'problem that needs to be solved'. (Interestingly, and somewhat confusingly, English can also say 'problem that needs solving', which is not overtly marked as a passive).

2) In 分类征收个税 fēnlèi zhēngshōu gèshuì ('classify [as] taxation of personal income'), 分类 fēnlèi is active in form but passive in meaning. Similarly for 纳入 nàrù ('include'). Where Chinese is happy with the straightforward form of the verb, English requires 'be classified' or 'be included'.