Chinese verbs behave very differently from their counterparts in Indo-European languages and pose interesting challenges to the study of syntax-semantic interface for theoretical and applicational linguistics. The lexical semantic distinctions encoded in the Chinese verbal lexicon are introduced with a thorough review of previous works from different approaches with different concerns and answers. The recent development in constructing a digital database of verbal information in Mandarin Chinese, the Mandarin VerbNet, is also introduced, which offers frame-based constructional analyses of the Chinese verbs and verb classes. Finally, a case study on Chinese emotion verbs is presented to illustrate the unique properties of lexicalization patterns in Chinese verbs. In general, due to its typological characteristics in coding a Topic, rather than a Subject, as a prominent element in the sentence, Chinese shows a more flexible range of form-meaning mapping relations in lexical distinctions.
The vast majority of evaluative constructions are formed by means of morphological strategies. An evaluative construction must include at least the explicit expression of the standard (by means of a linguistic form that is lexically autonomous and is recognized by the speakers of the language as an actual word) and an evaluative mark. Therefore, in the Italian word gattino ‘kitten, dear little cat,’ the standard is expressed by the lexical morpheme gatt- (which occurs in masculine gatto and feminine gatta), while the evaluative mark is the suffix -ino. A construction can be defined as evaluative if it satisfies two conditions, one relating to semantics and the other to the formal level. The first condition indicates that an evaluative construction indicates a deviation from a standard (or default) value without resorting to any parameter of reference external to the concept itself. The second condition indicates that an evaluative construction must include the explicit expression of this standard and an evaluative mark. Among the world’s languages, evaluative morphology has a quite uneven diffusion: Eurasian languages, and Romance languages in particular, show the highest degree of evaluative morphology diffusion, considering the number of word formation processes involved, the word classes they apply to, and the semantic categories they express. From a historical point of view, evaluative affixes reveal an unstable behavior: they are often subject to a renovation. As a matter of fact, present-day Romance evaluative affixes do not coincide with Latin evaluative affixes: they derive from affixes that in Latin had different functions from ‘evaluation’ or from non-Latin affixes. From a synchronic point of view, Romance evaluative affixes prototypically exemplify all the cross-linguistically more frequent properties of evaluative morphology: categorial neutrality, insensitivity to the word class of the base, prefix-suffix neutrality, and so forth.
Classical Chinese is the written language used from the late 6th to the early 2nd century bce. Located between the Eastern Zhou (770–256) and the foundation of the Qin dynasty (221–207), its textual repertoire comprises the philosophical treaties of the Warring States period (475–221 bce) and, based on syntactic criteria, roughly coincides with the Late Archaic Chinese (LAC). In a diachronic perspective, this is the stage between the rise of a set of possibility and desiderative modals and their systematic use to express a progressively more varied set of modal meanings. Even though many of those expressions still instantiate in modern Chinese, as bùdébù, ‘have to’, which echoes the LAC construction of possibility modal in double negation, the usage of other markers fell in disuse to be replaced by specialized modal, especially for epistemic and deontic modality, starting from Early Medieval Chinese (2nd–6th c. ce). The main bulk of LAC modals is built around three possibility modals, characterized by different syntactic, aspectual, and argumental properties, and expressing three types of enabling conditions for the actualization of the state of affairs. The first, and the most productive, is kĕ, ‘be possible, can’; it is related to the presence or absence of external factors that allow or prevent a given event. The modal néng, ‘be able’ is instead referred to inherent properties of the first participant; finally, dé, ‘come to get, manage’ expresses the potential of actualization of the first participant in the given circumstances. Combined with negation, restrictive focus markers, and specific pragmatic environments, each marker conveys a more varied array of modal meanings, also shifting to the necessity domain. In the latter area, the primary normative source is bound to contingent circumstances (including the power emanated by an authority) rather than moral obligations. Additionally, the only item that occurs consistently in LAC literature as a direct equivalent of deontic ‘should’ (yí宜) is more related to appropriateness than obligation. A further set of modal particles and speaker-oriented adverbs contribute to expressing the degree of factuality of the propositional content, conveying evidential and epistemic contents. Finally, the data show the centrality in LAC of the notion of necessity interpreted in terms of unavoidability, only possibility, and a lack of alternatives.
Huei-ling Lai and Yao-Ying Lai
Sentential meaning that emerges compositionally is not always transparent as one-to-one mapping from syntactic structure to semantic representation; oftentimes, the meaning is underspecified (morphosyntactically unsupported), not explicitly conveyed via overt linguistic devices. Compositional meaning is obtained during comprehension. The associated issues are explored by examining linguistic factors that modulate the construal of underspecified iterative meaning in Mandarin Chinese (MC). In this case, the factors include lexical aspect of verbs, the interval-lengths denoted by post-verbal durative adverbials, and boundary specificity denoted by preverbal versus post-verbal temporal adverbials. The composition of a punctual verb (e.g., jump, poke) with a durative temporal adverbial like Zhangsan tiao-le shi fenzhong. Zhangsan jump-LE ten minute ‘Zhangsan jumped for ten minutes’ engenders an iterative meaning, which is morphosyntactically absent yet fully understood by comprehenders. Contrastively, the counterpart involving a durative verb (e.g., run, swim) like Zhangsan pao-le shi fenzhong Zhangsan run-LE ten minute ‘Zhangsan ran for ten minutes’ engenders a continuous reading with identical syntactic structure. Psycholinguistically, processing such underspecified meaning in real time has been shown to require greater effort than the transparent counterpart. This phenomenon has been attested cross-linguistically; yet how it is manifested in MC, a tenseless language, remains understudied. In addition, durative temporal adverbials like yizhi/buduandi ‘continuously,’ which appear preverbally in MC, also engender an iterative meaning when composed with a punctual verb like Zhangsan yizhi/buduandi tiao. Zhangsan continuously jump ‘Zhangsan jumped continuously.’ Crucially, unlike the post-verbal adverbials that encode specific boundaries for the denoted intervals, these preverbal adverbials refer to continuous time spans without specific endpoints. The difference in boundary specificity between the two adverbial types, while both being durative, is hypothesized to modulate the processing profiles of aspectual comprehension. Results of the online (timed) questionnaire showed (a) an effect of boundary specificity: sentences with post-verbal adverbials that encode [+specific boundary] were rated lower in the naturalness-rating task and induced longer response time (RT) in iterativity judgements, as compared to preverbal adverbials that encode [−specific boundary]; (b) in composition with post-verbal adverbials that are [+specific boundary], sentences involving durative verbs elicited lower rating scores and longer RT of iterativity judgements than the counterpart involving punctual verbs. These suggest that the comprehension of underspecified iterative meaning is modulated by both cross-linguistically similar parameters and language-specific systems of temporal reference, by which MC exhibits a typological difference in processing profiles. Overall, the patterns are consistent with the Context-Dependence approach to semantic underspecification: comprehenders compute the ultimate reading (iterative versus continuous) by taking both the sentential and extra-sentential information into consideration in a given context.
The distinction between manner and result verbs arises from the event structure approach to verb meaning. In this approach verb meaning consists of two parts, a structural component that includes a small number of primitive predicates indicating event types, and a root component that describes idiosyncratic actions and states. Manner verbs describe actions but not the end results; they have a simple event structure. By contrast, result verbs describe the end results but not the way actions are carried out; they have a complex event structure. The distinction plays an important role in argument realization and constraints on possible verb meanings. It is also related to an issue that has been controversial in the study of Chinese verbs—whether there are simple accomplishments in Chinese. On the basis of Beavers and Koontz-Garboden’s diagnostics for manner and result verbs in English, five tests are suggested for Mandarin Chinese (henceforth Chinese) verbs. Two tests concern result: (a) result cannot be denied; (b) in forming resultative verb compounds the second verb and the object are restricted. Three tests identify manner verbs: (a) subject cannot be nonhuman, (b) action cannot be denied, (c) action has duration. Relying on the five tests, dynamic simple verbs in Chinese are classified into three groups—manner, result, and manner + result. Result verbs include verbs of damage, for example, duan ‘cut off’ and hui ‘destroy’; manner verbs include the verb of killing sha ‘kill’, de-adjectival degree achievement verbs, for example, re ‘heat up’, verbs of cooking, for example, kao ‘bake’; and one verb is found to lexicalize both manner and result—mie ‘put out, extinguish’. The verb of killing sha ‘kill, do killing’ is examined in detail, as its status has remained unresolved in the literature. It is found that sha entails change but not culminating change; morphosyntactically it patterns like manner verbs, hence its manner status. In terms of the affectedness hierarchy, the cutoff between result and manner is between verbs of quantized change and non-quantized change. The grammatical relevance of the verb classification can be seen in argument realization. Manner verbs takes more than one type of object, whereas result verbs only take one type of object, where the patient undergoes scalar change. In argument alternation, result verbs, but not manner or manner + result verbs, participate in causative alternation, and only manner verbs allow object alternations. This data suggests that Chinese does have simple accomplishments.
Julia Pozas Loyo
A common feature of Romance languages is the existence of indefinite articles. Prototypically, indefinite articles serve to introduce new referents into discourse, which can later be taken up by means of a definite. In Romance languages, the diachronic source of indefinite articles is the unitary cardinal ‘one’ and in most cases the singular indefinite article is formally identical to the numeral: Ast., Sp., Cat., Occ., It., Srd. un/una; Pt. um/uma; Glc. un/unha; Fr. un/une; RaeR. en/ena; Ro. un/o. Despite their formal identity to the unitary cardinal, these forms are considered indefinite articles since they can be used in generic and predicative nominals, the two contexts that characterize the last stages of the grammaticalization of indefinite articles. As for plurals, there are two possible diachronic sources. On one hand, Gallo-Romance languages and some varieties of Italo-Romance (i.e., Tuscan and northern Italian dialects) have grammaticalized a plural marker of indefiniteness on the basis of the preposition de, di (< lat. de) plus the definite article (e.g., Fr. des; It. dei/delle/degli). On the other hand, Ibero-Romance and neighboring languages derive their simple indefinite plural marker from the plural forms of the Latin cardinal (i.e., acc.pl. unos, unas): Pt. uns/umas; Glc. uns/unhas; Ast. unos/unes; Sp. unos/unas; and Cat. uns/unes. Romanian also preserves a plural form derived from Lat. unos, unas: for the nom.acc unii/unele, and gen.dat. unor. More commonly, however, plural indefinites are left bare or are preceded by nişte ‘some’ or câţiva ‘several.’ The use of the plural indefinite article in Romance is less extended than that of its singular counterpart. In fact, except for French where the obligatoriness of the determiner has been linked to the severe loss of morphological number, plural indefinite count nouns can, under certain circumstances, remain bare. Finally, in diachrony, the grammaticalization of plural indefinite articles is behind that of the singular. Synchronically, this is reflected in at least two facts: first, the frequency of use and the degree of obligatoriness of the plural indefinite articles are significantly lower than that of the singular indefinite article; second, plural indefinite articles are normally not accepted in generics.
Focus is key to understanding processes of syntactic and prosodic readjustments in the Romance languages. Since, prosodically, it must be the most prominent constituent in the sentence, focus associates with the nuclear pitch accent, which may be shifted from its default rightmost position when the syntactic position of the focus also changes. The application of specific syntactic operations depends both on the size and on the subtype of focus, although not always unambiguously. Subject inversion characterizes focus structures where the domain of focus covers either the whole sentence (broad-focus) or a single constituent (narrow-focus). Presentational constructions distinctively mark broad focus, avoiding potential ambiguity with an SVO structure where the predicate is the focus and the subject is interpreted as topic. In narrow-focus structures, the focus constituent typically occurs sentence-final (postverbal focalization), but it may also be fronted (focus fronting), depending on the specific interpretation associated with the focus. Semantically, focus indicates the presence of alternatives, and the different interpretations arise from the way the set of alternatives is pragmatically exploited, giving rise to a contextually open set (information focus), to contrast or correction (contrastive or corrective focus), or to surprise or unexpectedness (mirative focus). Whether a subtype of focus may undergo fronting in a Romance language is subject to variation. In most varieties it is indeed possible with contrastive or corrective focus, but it has been shown that focus fronting is also acceptable with noncontrastive focus in several languages, especially with mirative focus. Finally, certain focus-sensitive operators or particles directly interact with the narrow-focus constituent of the sentence and their association with focus has semantic effects on the interpretation of the sentence.
The notion of valency describes the property of verbs to open argument positions in a sentence (e.g., the verb eat opens two argument positions, filled in the sentence John ate the cake by the subject John and the direct object the cake). Depending on the number of arguments, a verb is avalent (no argument), monovalent (one argument), bivalent (two arguments), or trivalent (three arguments). In Romance languages, verbs are often labile (i.e., they occur in more than one valency pattern without any formal change on the verb). For example, the (European and Brazilian) Portuguese verb adoecer ‘get sick’/‘make sick’ can be used both as a monovalent and a bivalent verb (O bebê adoeceu ‘The baby got sick’ vs. O tempo frio adoeceu o bebê ‘The cold weather made the baby sick’). However, labile verbs are not equally important in all Romance languages. Taking the causative–anticausative alternation as an example, labile verbs are used more frequently in the encoding of the alternation in Portuguese and Italian than in Catalan and Spanish (the latter languages frequently recur to an encoding with a reflexively marked anticausative verb (e.g., Spanish romperse ‘break’). Romance languages possess various formal means to signal that a given constituent is an argument: word order, flagging the argument (by means of morphological case and, more importantly, prepositional marking), and indexing the argument on the verb (by means of morphological agreement or clitic pronouns). Again, Romance languages show variation with respect to the use of these formal means. For example, prepositional marking is much more frequent than morphological case marking on nouns (the latter being only found in Romanian).
Negation in Romance offers a wide array of cross-linguistic variation. For what concerns sentential negation, three main strategies are employed depending on the position of the negative marker with respect to the finite verb: some varieties (e.g., Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese) adopt a preverbal particle, others (e.g., Gallo-Italic varieties) a postverbal one, and some others (e.g., French) a combination of both. Negation can also surface in the left-most clausal positions, generally carrying an additional meaning expressed by emphatic polarity particles. The diverse options available in contemporary varieties stemmed from their common ancestor, Latin, through a sequence of (potentially) cyclical grammatical changes captured by the Jespersen’s cycle. A further dimension of variation concerns negative indefinites (N-words) and their interpretation when combined with negation, resulting in strict and nonstrict negative concord depending on the availability of double negation readings in both pre- and postverbal positions or only postverbally. In addition, the evolution of indefinites from Latin to modern Romance languages constitutes its own quantifier’s cycle. This cycle classifies the continuous diachronic changes that have occurred through the centuries into a sequence of discrete steps, imposing constraints on the transition of indefinites from one stage to the next. Despite the great variability in the ways negation is expressed, its interpretive properties are not fully constrained by superficial variations. Logical scope in particular is not bound to the syntactic position where negation surfaces and inverse scope readings are generally possible.
Antonio Fábregas and Rafael Marín
The term nominalization refers to a specific type of category-changing morphological operation that produces nouns from other lexical categories, most productively verbs and adjectives. By extension, it is also used to refer to the resulting derived nouns. In Romance languages, nominalization generally involves addition of a suffix to the base (cf. Italian generoso ‘generous’ > generos-ità ‘generosity’), and such suffixes are called nominalizers. However there are also cases of nouns built from other categories without any overt nominalizer (cf. Spanish inútil ‘useless’ > inútil ‘useless person’); descriptively, this process is called conversion, and it is debatable whether it should also be treated as a nominalization or whether another different kind of morphological operation is involved here. Nominalizations can be divided in several classes depending on a variety of semantic and syntactic factors, such as the type of entities that they denote or the ability to introduce arguments. The main nominalization classes are (a) complex event nominalizations, which come from verbs, can combine with some temporal and aspectual modifiers, and have the ability to introduce at least an internal argument; (b) state nominalizations, which denote states associated to the verbs that serve as their bases; (c) participant nominalizations, which denote different types of arguments of the base, such as agents, resulting objects, locations or recipients; and (d) quality nominalizations, coming from adjectives and more restrictively from verbs, which denote a set of properties related to their base. Different classes of predicates select for different nominalization types, and there is a debate surrounding which tests capture in a more complete way the nuances of this taxonomy. Nominalizers impose different types of restrictions to their bases: aspectual restrictions (individual-level vs. stage-level, (a) telicity, dynamicity, etc.), argument structure restrictions (agent vs. nonagent, different types of internal arguments), morphological restrictions (for instance, selecting only verbs that belong to a particular conjugation class), and finally conceptual restrictions (for instance, showing a strong preference for bases belonging to a particular conceptual domain). In Romance languages, nominalizations sometimes alternate with other word classes, most significantly infinitives (see article on “Infinitival Clauses in the Romance Languages” in this encyclopedia). Infinitival constructions in Romance can display a mixture of verbal and nominal properties, or be totally recategorized as nouns, and in both cases they can compete with prototypical nominalizations. Less generally, participles (see article on “Participial Relative Clauses” in this encyclopedia), gerunds and supines can also display nominalization properties in some Romance varieties.