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Article

Negative Polarity Items in Chinese  

Bo Xue and Haihua Pan

Negative polarity items (NPIs) are well known for their limited distribution, that is, their negation-implicating contexts, the phenomenon of which has attracted much attention in generative linguistics since Klima’s seminal work. There is a large amount of research on NPI licensing that aims to (a) identify the range of potential licensors of NPIs, also known as Ladusaw’s licensor question; (b) ascertain the semantic/logical properties shared by these licensors; (c) elucidate the licensing dependency, for example, whether the dependency between an NPI and its licensor involves a structural requirement like c-command, and (d) shed light on the nature of polarity-sensitive items in natural languages and, more generally, the architectural organization of the syntax–semantics and semantics–pragmatics interfaces. Theories of NPI licensing on the market abound, ranging from Klima’s affectivity to the influential Fauconnier–Ladusaw downward-entailingness (DE) as well as some weakened versions of Ladusaw’s licensing condition like (non-)veridicality and Strawson downward-entailingness. These theories are primarily concerned with pinpointing the logical properties of NPI licensors and elucidating the dependency between a licensor and its licensee. Broadly speaking, NPIs are assumed to be in the scope of some negative element. On the licensor side, various logical properties have been identified, resulting in a more fine-grained distinction between different negative strengths including downward-entailing, anti-additive, and anti-morphic. Moreover, a diverse class of NPIs has been uncovered and differentiated, including English weak NPIs like any/ever, for which simple DE would suffice, and stronger NPIs like in years/the minimizer sleep a wink, which are more selective and correlate with a stronger negative strength, namely, anti-additivity. Further theoretical developments of NPI licensing shift to the nature of NPIs and their communicative roles in a discourse, unearthing important properties like domain-widening in need of semantic strengthening (with its recent implementation in the alternative-and-exhaustification framework), which advances the understanding of their polarity-sensitive profiles. Chinese NPIs include renhe-phrases (similar to English any) and wh-items, and minimizers, all of which are also confined to certain negative semantic contexts and not acceptable if they occur in simple positive episodic sentences without Chinese dou ‘all’. Descriptively, among canonical affective contexts(those including sentential negation, yes–no/wh questions, intensional verbs, if-clauses, imperatives, modals, adversative emotive predicates, adverb dou ‘all’, and the exclusive particle zhiyou ‘only’), renhe-phrases, and wh-items can be licensed by sentential negation, yes–no questions, intensional verbs, if-clauses, imperatives, modals, and the left restrictor of dou ‘all’, whereas minimizers like yi-fen qian ‘one penny’ display a more constrained distribution and can only be licensed by sentential negation, yes–no rhetorical questions, concessive if-clauses, and the left restrictor of dou. There are at least two research questions worth exploring in the future. First, the affective contexts licensing Chinese renhe-phrases, wh-items, and minimizers are not totally the same, with minimizers being more constrained in their distribution. What could explain the unique behavior of Chinese minimizers? Why are these minimizers deviant in modal contexts and in need of the likelihood reasoning? Second, the affective contexts licensing Chinese NPIs do not totally overlap with those licensing English any. What could explain the divergent distributions of NPIs cross-linguistically?

Article

The Syntax of Causatives in the Romance Languages  

Fabienne Martin

This article discusses the syntax of lexical and periphrastic causative verbs in the Romance languages. Several aspects of these verbs are examined: the building blocks of lexical causative verbs, the role of reflexive marking on the anticausative form, the interaction between causativity and agentivity, the morphosyntactic make-up of causative verbs with causative semantics. It offers a comprehensive typology of lexical causatives, resultatives and periphrastic causatives, relying on recent research on these topics.

Article

Diatheses in Germanic  

Simon Kasper

An alternation between clauses is treated as a diathetical alternation (a) if one or more semantic roles associated with the main verb exhibit differential grammatical (i.e., morphological or syntactic) encoding, (b) if the overt lexical expressions have same lexical roots, and (c) if the clauses approximately share at least the meaning and truth conditions of the semantically less specific clause alternant. This qualifies as diathesis what has come to be known as the canonical passive, impersonal passive, non-canonical passive, pseudo-passive, anticausative, the dative alternation, and the locative alternation, among others. The focus of this article is on the semantic restrictions governing a clause’s participation in various diathetical alternations across the modern Germanic (standard) languages. Semantic differences between alternating clauses are captured using a sophisticated semantic role account. Grammatical encoding of diathesis is described in a theory-neutral manner using the four-case system of the old Germanic languages as a tertium comparationis and syntactic function notions from descriptive typology. Diatheses are differentiated by the semantic roles that are fore- and backgrounded by means of the syntactic functions they bear. The roles that alternate in grammatical coding are foregrounded in the clause in which they have the higher syntactic function in a syntactic function hierarchy, and they are backgrounded in the clause in which they have the lower syntactic function. In a first set of diatheses, alternations are described in which the proto-agent role is backgrounded and a proto-patient is foregrounded. This set includes a “patient passive” and the “anticausative domain.” In a second set of diatheses, the proto-agent is again backgrounded, but now the proto-recipient is foregrounded. This is illustrated using the “eventive recipient passive.” Completing this pattern, the “locational passive” represents a diathetical pattern in which the proto-agent role is backgrounded once more and the proto-locational role is foregrounded. Other types of diatheses in which the proto-locational is foregrounded and the proto-patient is backgrounded are exemplified by means of the location/possession alternation (dative alternation) and the location/affection alternation (e.g., locative and applicative alternations).

Article

Degree Expressions in Chinese  

Linmin Zhang

Degree expressions in natural language reflect how human cognition performs abstract tasks like taking measurements (i.e., mapping items to degrees on a certain scale) and conducting comparisons between measurements. There is a great variation on how different languages encode notions like degrees and scales and operate comparison, inspiring ongoing theoretical development in degree semantics. This article presents major empirical data on degree expressions in Mandarin Chinese and surveys current research on Chinese-specific phenomena. Compared to well-known English phenomena, Chinese gradable predicates like 高gāo ‘tall, high’ seem rather syntactic-category-fluid, and due to the lack of comparative morphemes, their interpretation can be ambiguous between a comparative use and a positive/measurement interpretation. Typical degree expressions in Chinese, including the positive use, comparatives, equatives, and measurement constructions, demonstrate patterns different from those in English. Moreover, not only adjective-like words such as 高gāo ‘tall, high’, but also property nouns (e.g., 魅力mèi-lì ‘charm’, 钱qián ‘money’) and mental verbs (e.g., 喜欢xǐ-huān ‘like’) have gradable meanings and can be used to form degree expressions. With regard to these empirical phenomena, this article focuses on the following fundamental research questions in the literature: (a) The encoding of comparison: In a language lacking comparative morphemes, how is the distinction established between the positive and the comparative interpretation? (b) Compositional derivation: How are Chinese comparatives distinct from well-studied English clausal comparatives? (c) Ontology of degrees: How do various Chinese degree expressions reveal the underlying ontological assumptions of scales and degrees? Even though many of the research questions are still hotly debated in the existing literature, research on Chinese empirical data already brings profound implications for theoretical development of degree semantics. In particular, this article suggests a new look at variations between languages with versus without overt comparative morphemes (e.g., English -er) and invites more research on the pragmatics involved in cross-linguistic degree expressions.

Article

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.