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

3 December 2015 (last rewrite Sept 2017)

The (now defunct) 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' 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. Example in attributive clause
6. 上報 shàngbao in linked verb constructions (from the Web)
7. 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:

    [subject] + ‘’ object 1 + 上报 + object 2 (place)

This is a ditransitive construction, with one object using or jiāng to mark the patient (the report) and one ordinary direct object identifying the recipient (the institution). ( jiāng is the formal written equivalent of .) We'll represent this graphically as follows:

Subject ObjectVerbObject
+ 上报

The superficial strangeness of this construction is due to the ditransitive, in particular the use of the ordinary (unmarked) direct object for the recipient (the institution).

上报 does not invariably require the use of . If the higher authority is not spelt out in the sentence, the object given (the patient) can be made into the direct object, as in this sentence:

首先,上报这些信息的并非是我们个人,而是发卡银行。
Shǒuxiān, shàngbào zhèxiē xìnxī de bìng fēi shì wǒmen gèrén, ér shì fākǎ yínháng.

'First of all, the one who reports this information is not us as individuals, but the issuing bank.'

The object of the verb here is 这些信息 zhèxiē xìnxī 'this information', used without . The structure can be represented as:

SubjectVerbObject (patient)
上报

Only when the higher organisation is specified does need to be used.

The patient can, of course, also be omitted, as in the following sentence:

外来人员一律谢绝入内,发现陌生和可疑人员,立即上报有关部门
Wàilái rényuán yīlǜ xièjué rùnèi, fāxiàn mòshēng hé kěyí rényuán, lìjí shàngbào yǒuguān-bùmén

'No outside personnel are to be permitted entry, [if] an unknown or suspicious person is found, immediately report it to the relevant authority

In this case the patient to be reported is '(the discovery of) an unknown or suspicious person'. This is understood and omitted in the following sentence, which has a single explicit argument, 有关部门 yǒuguān-bùmén 'the relevant authority', and two implicit arguments. As a result, the superficial argument structure becomes:

Subject (understood)VerbObject (recipient)
上报

2. Argument structure of 上報 shàngbao in the passage

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, gèshuì 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 'reform proposal'. This is marked with jiāng, indicating that it is a tax reform proposal that is to be submitted. 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.

This fills all slots -- subject, object 1, and object 2 -- and exemplifies the full argument structure of the verb 上报 shàngbào.

Subject Object VerbObject
财政部 +改革草案 上报 中央和国务院
+

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 encountered 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. It can be represented as:

Subject ObjectVerb Object (indirect)
俱乐部+此事上报+中国篮协
++

4. Argument structure of 上报 shàngbào in the headline

In the headline quoted, i.e., 个人所得税改革方案最快年底上报 gèrén suǒdéshuì gǎigé fāng'àn zuì kuài niándǐ shàngbào, only one argument of the verb 上报 shàngbào is explicitly mentioned. That is 个人所得税改革方案 gèrén suǒdéshuì gǎigé fāng'àn 'personal income tax reform proposal', which is the semantic patient.

As we saw, when all slots are filled, the patient is marked with jiāng. In the headline, however, the patient has been made the topic of the sentence (or, according to some linguists, the subject of the sentence) and jiāng has been omitted. The promotion of objects to become topics is common in Chinese sentences, thus obscuring the underlying argument structure.

The modified argument structure, that is, modified under the influence of topicalisation, can be represented as:

TopicVerb
上报

This kind of topicalisation is not permitted when such a sentence is translated into English. The argument structure must be strictly adhered to, with 'submit' a transitive verb having 'report' as its object. Putting 'report' into subject position requires the use of the passive voice ('be submitted'). It's not permissible in English to say 'the report submitted'. (That is not to say that there is not a lot of flexibility in the behaviour of English verbs, but the argument structures themselves are quite rigid).

SubjectVerb (passive)
was + submitted

5. Example in attributive clause

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 gèshuì 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 theoretically indeterminate. From real world knowledge, however, we know that the reform proposal is the patient (the item to be submitted).

Subject in adnominal clauseVerbAdnominal marker Subject of the whole sentence
(known from context)即将上报 ....

Again, English would normally require passive voice here since 'submit' has clearly defined arguments: a subject (the agent), which is not spelt out, and an object (the patient). Given that the personal income tax reform proposal is the object of 'submit', the verb in the relative clause must be made passive ('that is soon to be submitted').

Subject of the whole sentence Relative clause markerVerb (passive)
 that is soon to be submitted

6. 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; a game company submits content for approval but meets with "return" treatment'

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

    Topic (游戏 yóuxì 'game')
    + Verb 1 (上报 shàngbào 'submit')
    + Verb 2 in bèi construction (被驳回 bèi bóhuí 'be rejected').

The agent of the action is not specified at this part of the sentence, but in the latter part it is clear that it is 游戏公司 yóuxì gōngsī 'game company'.

Given that the topic of this clause, 游戏 yóuxì, is the semantic object of the verb, 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 from Wuhan 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 topic (subject) of 上报 shàngbào even though it is semantically the patient.

    游戏被驳回
    yóuxì bèi bóhuí

    'game was rejected', in which 游戏 yóuxì is again the topic (subject) of the sentence. This time the form beì marks it clearly as the patient of the action.

We can represent this as follows:

TopicVerb 1 (Same topic)Verb 2
游戏 上报 (游戏) + 驳回
  ()

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.

In fact, bèi cannot be straightforwardly 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: '1. We submitted the report but 2. it was rejected, to our detriment'.

Indeed, the argument structure might be better understood as follows:

SubjectVerb 1Object (Same subject)Verb 2
游戏公司上报游戏  (游戏公司) + 驳回
  ()

The vagueness over arguments is quite typical of Chinese. A reading of 'A game was submitted and rejected' and 'We submitted a game and were rejected' are both possible and compatible semantically.

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 is the aim of the first action and does not indicate successful approval. The meaning of the whole is 'submit for approval'. This a conventional construction in bureaucratic Chinese.

It can be represented as follows:

SubjectObjectVerb 1 Subject (omitted) Verb 2Object (omitted)
游戏公司 + 内容 上报 (有关部门)审核(内容)
+  ()()

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


7. 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'.