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The Semantics of Chinese Wh-Phrases  

Qianqian Ren and Haihua Pan

In formal semantics, a wh-phrase is traditionally assigned the semantics of an existential quantifier phrase, an abstraction operator, or a set of alternatives. Such semantics per se, however, is not sufficient to account for the behaviors of Chinese wh-phrases. A wh-phrase in Chinese may be used in a variety of contexts and express a variety of meanings. Apart from interrogative meaning, it may also give rise to existential or universal meaning. More specifically, it can be licensed in typical contexts that license negative polarity items like the c-command domain of negation, the antecedent clause of a conditional, and a yes–no question. It can also be licensed in modal contexts, including epistemic modality and deontic modality. Finally, it can produce a universal reading by being quantified by the adverb dōu ‘all’ or forming the so-called bare conditionals/wh-conditionals, which are composed by two clauses containing matched wh-forms without overt connectives. In order to achieve explanatory adequacy, it is necessary to consider whether and how the different functions of wh-phrases can be unified and whether they can be derived from more general principles or mechanisms. To maintain descriptive adequacy, variations in licensing and interpretation possibilities across wh-items and contexts must also be taken into consideration. Another feature of Chinese wh-phrases is that sometimes they seem to extend their scope beyond domains within which they otherwise take scope (e.g., a Chinese wh-phrase may take existential scope within the antecedent of a conditional, though it may also co-vary with another wh-phrase in the consequent of that conditional). In this respect, they behave like indefinites. As some evidence suggests that some cases where they display this feature may in fact involve the interrogative use, it remains to be seen whether the locus of explanation lies in the wh-phrase itself or in the question meaning. There are other big questions to consider: For instance, how do prosody, syntax and semantics interact with one another in licensing and interpreting a Chinese wh-phrase? Do the theoretical devices and mechanisms postulated have psychological reality? There is also much space for empirical research, which hopefully will help settle debates over the grammaticality of certain structures or the availability of certain readings.

Article

Liheci ‘Separable Words’ in Mandarin Chinese  

Kuang Ye and Haihua Pan

Liheci ‘separable words’ is a special phenomenon in Mandarin Chinese, and it refers to an intransitive verb with two or more syllables that allows the insertion of syntactic modifiers or an argument in between the first syllable and the second or the rest of syllables with the help of the nominal modifier marker de. There are two major groups of Liheci: those stored in the lexicon, such as bangmang ‘help’, lifa ‘haircut’, and shenqi ‘anger’, and those derived in syntax through noun-to-verb incorporation, such as chifan ‘eat meal’, leiqiang ‘build wall’, in which fan ‘meal’ and qiang ‘wall’ are incorporated into chi ‘eat’ and lei ‘build’, respectively, to function as temporary verbal compounds. The well-known behavior of Liheci is that it can be separated by nominal modifiers or a syntactic argument. For example, bangmang ‘help’ can be used to form a verb phrase bang Lisi-de mang ‘give Lisi a help’ by inserting Lisi and a nominal modifier marker, de, between bang and mang, with bang being understood as the predicate and Lisi-de mang as the object. Although Lisi appears as a possessor marked by de, it should be understood as the theme object of the compound verb. In similar ways, the syntactic–semantic elements such as agent, theme, adjectives, measure phrases, relative clauses, and the like can all be inserted between the two components of bangmang, deriving verb phrases like (Zhangsan) bang Zhangsan-de mang ‘(Zhangsan) do Zhangsan’s help’, where Zhangsan is the agent; bang-le yi-ci mang ‘help once’, where yi-ci is a measure phrase; and bang bieren bu xiang bang de mang ‘give a help that others don’t want to give’, where bieren bu xiang bang is a relative clause. The same insertions can be found in Liheci formed in syntax. For example, chi liang-ci fan ‘eat two time’s meal’ (eat meals twice), lei san-tian qiang ‘build three day’s wall’ (build walls for three days). There are three syntactic-semantic properties exhibited in verb phrases formed with Liheci: first, possessors being understood as Liheci’s logical argument; second, interdependent relation between the predicate and the complement; and, third, obligatory use of verbal classifiers instead of nominal classifiers. In this article, first, five influential analyses in the literature are reviewed, pointing out their strengths and weaknesses. Then, the cognate object approach is discussed. Under this approach, Lihecis are found to be intransitive verbs that are capable of taking nominalized reduplicates of themselves as their cognate objects. After a complementary deletion on the verb and its reduplicate object in the Phonetic Form (PF), all the relevant verb phrases can be well derived, with no true separation involved in the derivation, as all the copies of Liheci in question remain intact all along. After a discussion of the relevant syntactic structures, it is shown that with this syntactic capacity, all participants involved in the events can be successfully accommodated and correctly interpreted. The advantage can be manifested in six aspects, demonstrating that this proposal fares much better than other approaches.

Article

Chinese Dou Quantification  

Yuli Feng and Haihua Pan

Dou has been seen as a typical example of universal quantification and the point of departure in the formal study of quantification in Chinese. The constraints on dou’s quantificational structure, dou’s diverse uses, and the compatibility between dou and other quantificational expressions have further promoted the refinement of the theory of quantification and sparked debate over the semantic nature of dou. The universal quantificational approach holds that dou is a universal quantifier and explains its diverse uses as the effects produced by quantification on different sorts of entities and different ways of quantificational mapping. However, non-quantificational approaches, integrating the insights of degree semantics and focus semantics, take the scalar use as dou’s core semantics. The quantificational approach to dou can account for its meaning of exclusiveness and the interpretational differences engendered by dou when it associates with a wh-indeterminate to its left or to its right, whereas non-quantificational approaches cannot determine the interpretational differences caused by rightward and leftward association and cannot explain the exclusive use of dou. Despite the differences, the various approaches to dou, quantificational or non-quantificational, have far-reaching theoretical significance for understanding the mechanism of quantification in natural language.

Article

Danish  

Eva Skafte Jensen

Danish is a North Germanic language, spoken by approximately 6 million people. Genealogically, it is related to the other Germanic languages, in particular the other North Germanic languages (Swedish, Norwegian, Icelandic, Faroese), but also, for example, German, Dutch, and English; typologically, Modern Danish is closer to Norwegian and Swedish than to any other language. Historically deriving from Proto-Germanic, Danish morphology once had three grammatical genders (the masculine, the feminine, and the neuter) and case inflection (nominative, accusative, dative, and genitive) in all nominal words; it also had inflection for mood, tense, number, and person in the verbal conjugations. In Modern Standard Danish, much of the traditional nominal and verbal inflection has disappeared. Instead, other kinds of morphosyntactic constructions and structures have emerged. Middle Danish and Modern Danish are typologically very different languages. One of the structural innovations linked to the typological change is that a syntactic subject becomes obligatory in Danish sentences. Correlated to this, Danish develops expletive constructions with det ‘it’ and der ‘there’. Another important point differentiating Middle Danish from Modern Danish concerns agreement. Traditional Indo-European agreement (verbal as well as nominal) has receded in favor of more fixed word order, both on the sentence level and internally within phrases. As part of this, Modern Danish has developed a set of definite and indefinite articles. The traditional three genders are reduced to two (common and neuter) and have developed new syntactic-semantic functions alongside the traditional lexically distributed functions. In the verbal systems, Danish makes use of two different kinds of passive voice (a periphrastic and an inflected one), which carry different meanings, and also of two different auxiliaries in perfective constructions, that is, have ‘have’ and være ‘be’, the latter doubling as an auxiliary in periphrastic passive constructions. Perfective constructions are made up by an auxiliary and the supine form of the main verb. Danish is a V2-language with a relatively fixed word order, often depicted in the form of the so-called sentence frame, a topological model designed specifically for Danish. Like most other Germanic languages, Danish has a rich set of modal particles. All these morphosyntactic features, Danish shares with Swedish and Norwegian, but the distribution is not completely identical in the three languages, something that makes the Mainland Scandinavian languages an interesting study object to the typologically interested linguist. Exclusive for Danish is the so-called stød, a suprasegmental prosodic feature, used as a distinctive feature. Modern Danish is strongly standardized with only little of the traditional dialectal variation left. From the end of the 20th century, in the larger cities, new sociolects have emerged, that is, multi-ethnolects. The new multi-ethnolects are based on a substrate of Danish with lexical features from the languages of Central Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. In addition to the lexical innovations, the multi-ethnolects are characteristic in intonation patterns different from Standard Danish, and they have morphosyntactic features different from Standard Danish, for example, in word order and in the use of gender.

Article

Chinese Verbs and Lexical Distinction  

Meichun Liu

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.

Article

Tense, Aspect, and Mood in Germanic  

Thilo Weber

Tense, aspect, and mood are grammatical categories concerned with different notional facets of the event or situation conveyed by a given clause. They are prototypically expressed by the verbal system. Tense can be defined as a category that relates points or intervals in time to one another; in a most basic model, those include the time of the event or situation referred to and the speech time. The former may precede the latter (“past”), follow it (“future”), or be simultaneous with it (or at least overlap with it; “present”). Aspect is concerned with the internal temporal constituency of the event or situation, which may be viewed as a single whole (“perfective”) or with particular reference to its internal structure (“imperfective”), including its being ongoing at a certain point in time (“progressive”). Mood, in a narrow, morphological sense, refers to the inflectional realization of modality, with modality encompassing a large and varying set of sub-concepts such as possibility, necessity, probability, obligation, permission, ability, and volition. In the domain of tense, all Germanic languages make a distinction between non-past and past. In most languages, the opposition can be expressed inflectionally, namely, by the present and preterite (indicative). All modern languages also have a periphrastic perfect as well as periphrastic forms that can be used to refer to future events. Aspect is characteristically absent as a morphological category across the entire family, but most, if not all, modern languages have periphrastic forms for the expression of aspectual categories such as progressiveness. Regarding mood, Germanic languages are commonly described as distinguishing up to three such form paradigms, namely, indicative, imperative, and a third one referred to here as subjunctive. Morphologically distinct subjunctive forms are, however, more typical of earlier stages of Germanic than they are of most present-day languages.

Article

Evaluative Morphology in the Romance Languages  

Nicola Grandi

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.

Article

The Expression of Modality in Classical Chinese: Notions, Taxonomy and Distinctive Features  

Carlotta Sparvoli

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.

Article

Iterative Meaning in Mandarin Chinese: Linguistic Factors and its Processing  

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.

Article

Manner and Result Verbs in Mandarin Chinese  

Feng-hsi Liu

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.