Cross-linguistic data can add new insights to the development of semantic theories or even induce the shift of the research paradigm. The major topics in semantic studies such as bare noun denotation, quantification, degree semantics, polarity items, donkey anaphora and binding principles, long-distance reflexives, negation, tense and aspects, eventuality are all discussed by semanticists working on the Chinese language. The issues which are of particular interest include and are not limited to: (i) the denotation of Chinese bare nouns; (ii) categorization and quantificational mapping strategies of Chinese quantifier expressions (i.e., whether the behaviors of Chinese quantifier expressions fit into the dichotomy of A-Quantification and D-quantification); (iii) multiple uses of quantifier expressions (e.g., dou) and their implication on the inter-relation of semantic concepts like distributivity, scalarity, exclusiveness, exhaustivity, maximality, etc.; (iv) the interaction among universal adverbials and that between universal adverbials and various types of noun phrases, which may pose a challenge to the Principle of Compositionality; (v) the semantics of degree expressions in Chinese; (vi) the non-interrogative uses of wh-phrases in Chinese and their influence on the theories of polarity items, free choice items, and epistemic indefinites; (vii) how the concepts of E-type pronouns and D-type pronouns are manifested in the Chinese language and whether such pronoun interpretations correspond to specific sentence types; (viii) what devices Chinese adopts to locate time (i.e., does tense interpretation correspond to certain syntactic projections or it is solely determined by semantic information and pragmatic reasoning); (ix) how the interpretation of Chinese aspect markers can be captured by event structures, possible world semantics, and quantification; (x) how the long-distance binding of Chinese ziji ‘self’ and the blocking effect by first and second person pronouns can be accounted for by the existing theories of beliefs, attitude reports, and logophoricity; (xi) the distribution of various negation markers and their correspondence to the semantic properties of predicates with which they are combined; and (xii) whether Chinese topic-comment structures are constrained by both semantic and pragmatic factors or syntactic factors only.
Haihua Pan and Yuli Feng
Jim Wood and Neil Myler
The topic “argument structure and morphology” refers to the interaction between the number and nature of the arguments taken by a given predicate on the one hand, and the morphological makeup of that predicate on the other. This domain turns out to be crucial to the study of a number of theoretical issues, including the nature of thematic representations, the proper treatment of irregularity (both morphophonological and morphosemantic), and the very place of morphology in the architecture of the grammar. A recurring question within all existing theoretical approaches is whether word formation should be conceived of as split across two “places” in the grammar, or as taking place in only one.
The Causative/Inchoative alternation involves pairs of verbs, one of which is causative and the other non-causative syntactically and semantically (e.g., John broke the window vs. The window broke). In its causative use, an alternating verb is used transitively and understood as externally caused. When used non-causatively, the verb is intransitive and interpreted as spontaneous. The alternation typically exhibits an affected argument (i.e., a Theme) in both intransitive and transitive uses, whereas the transitive use also involves a Causer that brings about the event. Although they are often volitional agents (e.g., John broke the window with a stone), external causers may also be non-volitional causers (e.g., The earthquake broke the windows) and instruments (e.g., The hammer broke the window). Morphologically, languages exhibit different patterns reflecting the alternation, even intralinguistically. In languages like English, alternations are not morphologically coded, but they are in most languages. Languages like Hindi commonly mark causative (or transitive) alternations by means of different mechanisms, such as internal vowel changes or causative morphology. In many European languages, a subset of alternating verbs may exhibit an uncoded alternation, but most alternating verbs mark anticausativization with a reflexive-like clitic. In Yaqui (Uto-Aztecan), different patterns are associated with different verbal roots. The alternation may be uncoded, equipollent (i.e., both alternating forms are coded), and anticausative. Theoretically, different approaches have explored the alternation. Both lexical and syntactic causativization and anticausativization accounts have been proposed to explain the alternation. A third approach postulates that both forms are derived from a common source.
K. A. Jayaseelan
The Dravidian languages have a long-distance reflexive anaphor taan . (It is taan in Tamil and Malayalam, taanu in Kannada and tanu in Telugu.) As is the case with other long-distance anaphors, it is subject-oriented; it is also [+human] and third person. Interestingly, it is infelicitous if bound within the minimal clause when it is an argument of the verb. (That is, it seems to obey Principle B of the binding theory.) Although it is subject-oriented in the normal case, it can be bound by a non-subject if the verb is a “psych predicate,” that is, a predicate that denotes a feeling; in this case, it can be bound by the experiencer of the feeling. Again, in a discourse that depicts the thoughts, feelings, or point of view of a protagonist—the so-called “logophoric contexts”—it can be coreferential with the protagonist even if the latter is mentioned only in the preceding discourse (not within the sentence). These latter facts suggest that the anaphor is in fact coindexed with the perspective of the clause (rather than with the subject per se). In cases where this anaphor needs to be coindexed with the minimal subject (to express a meaning like ‘John loves himself’), the Dravidian languages exhibit two strategies to circumvent the Principle B effect. Malayalam adds an emphasis marker tanne to the anaphor; taan tanne can corefer with the minimal subject. This strategy parallels the strategy of European languages and East Asian languages (cf. Scandinavian seg selv). The three other major Dravidian languages—Tamil, Telugu, and Kannada—use a verbal reflexive: they add a light verb koL- (lit. ‘take’) to the verbal complex, which has the effect of reflexivizing the transitive predicate. (It either makes the verb intransitive or gives it a self-benefactive meaning.) The Dravidian languages also have reciprocal and distributive anaphors. These have bipartite structures. An example of a Malayalam reciprocal anaphor is oral … matte aaL (‘one person … other person’). The distributive anaphor in Malayalam has the form awar-awar (‘they-they’); it is a reduplicated pronoun. The reciprocals and distributives are strict anaphors in the sense that they apparently obey Principle A; they must be bound in the domain of the minimal subject. They are not subject-oriented. A noteworthy fact about the pronominal system of Dravidian is that the third person pronouns come in proximal-distal pairs, the proximal pronoun being used to refer to something nearby and the distal pronoun being used elsewhere.
The Romance languages are characterized by the existence of pronominal clitics. Third person pronominal clitics are often, but not always, homophonous with the definite determiner series in the same language. Both pronominal and determiner clitics emerge early in child acquisition, but their path of development varies depending on clitic type and language. While determiner clitic acquisition is quite homogeneous across Romance, there is wide cross-linguistic variation for pronominal clitics (accusative vs. partitive vs. dative, first/second person vs. third person); the observed differences in acquisition correlate with syntactic differences between the pronouns. Acquisition of pronominal clitics is also affected if a language has both null objects and object clitics, as in European Portuguese. The interpretation of Romance pronominal clitics is generally target-like in child grammar, with absence of Pronoun Interpretation problems like those found in languages with strong pronouns. Studies on developmental language impairment show that, as in typical development, clitic production is subject to cross-linguistic variation. The divergent performance between determiners and pronominals in this population points to the syntactic (as opposed to phonological) nature of the deficit.