David Prager Branner and Yuan-Yuan Meng have written a paper called “‘Syntactic Yoga’ in Chinese-English Lexicography” that Zackary Sholem Berger thought I would find interesting, and so I do. Here’s the abstract:
This paper argues that Chinese-English dictionaries should include more thorough part-of-speech notations. Chinese part of speech is recognized to be highly fluid and requires the learner to master what we call ‘syntactic yoga’: the contortion or exchange of one part of speech into another. It is suggested that this pedagogical technique can be applied to great effect in the construction of dictionary entries.
They say “the fact that it is hard to identify Chinese parts of speech does not mean that it is impossible, nor that it is therefore somehow unnecessary,” and conclude:
The need for marking parts of speech in a Chinese-English dictionary is two-fold: From the point of view of Chinese usage, since part of speech can certainly vary in Chinese, part of speech notations are necessary to ensure that the Chinese usage being described is correct. From the point of view of English renderings, since English translations and definitions inevitably vary as Chinese usage varies, part of speech notations for the Chinese are also necessary to distinguish among English translations for varying Chinese usages.
Makes sense to me.