I'm a native English speaker that has been learning Mandarin.

The Mandarin equivalent to the English verb "to have" is "有". As far as I can tell these two words are a 1 to 1 equivalent regardless of whether the thing being had is a tangible object, an intangible property, etc.

I found it interesting that in Mandarin "没有" (not have) can be used to indicated that you have not done something. For example, in the English, "I have not taken the garbage out." We negate the possessive verb "to have" in order indicate that the speaker did not do something, this behavior seems to also occur in Mandarin.

And vice versa, in Taiwanese Mandarin the non-negated form of the possessive verb can be used to indicate that an event did occur (I don't believe this is true for Mandarin as a whole but I know this to be true for Taiwanese Mandarin).

My question is, is this a neat coincidental similarity between the two languages or is this a known phenomenon caused by some underlying linguistic pattern?

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    One-line summary: Typologically, how common is it to use the main verb meaning "have" as the auxiliary for the perfect? Beginning of an answer: Very common in European languages because of their common ancestors. Not sure about globally. It's not the way it's done in Semitic languages, at least. Oct 13, 2020 at 2:54
  • @LukeSawczak: It is very common in European languages, but the attribution to inheritance is wrong: Latin does not have a have-perfect, but modern Romance languages do. It is one of the hallmark features of the Standard Average European Sprachbund.—For Mandarin, it is worth looking at the historical dimension of that feature, it may be a result of a European (Portuguese or English) adstrate. Oct 13, 2020 at 9:31
  • someone decided to add tags that narrows the range to Chinese and European languages when my question was never limited to those Oct 13, 2020 at 10:51
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    It was me, I thought those tags were appropriate. I just added the final tag "linguistic-typology" for the large picture. Oct 13, 2020 at 12:11
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    @LukeSawczak, have-perfects are not inherited, but they developed through reanalysis of sentences like "I have something made for you" = "I have something which was made for you" => "I have made something for you" Many IE languages have no have-perfects (most Slavic languages, etc)
    – Daniel N.
    Oct 14, 2020 at 8:31


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