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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.

Article

The Semantics of Chinese Noun Phrases  

Xuping Li

Chinese nominal phrases are typologically distinct from their English counterparts in many aspects. Most strikingly, Chinese is featured with a general classifier system, which not only helps to categorize nouns but also has to do with the issue of quantification. Moreover, it has neither noncontroversial plural markers nor (in)definite markers. Its bare nouns are allowed in various argument positions. As a consequence, Chinese is sometimes characterized as a classifier language, as an argumental language, or as an article-less language. One of the questions arising is whether these apparently different but related properties underscore a single issue: that it is the semantics of nouns that is responsible for all these peculiarities of Mandarin nominal phrases. It has been claimed that Chinese nouns are born as kind terms, from which the object-level readings can be derived, being either existential or definite. Nevertheless, the existence of classifiers in Chinese is claimed to be independent of the kind denotation of its bare nouns. Within the general area of noun semantics, a number of other semantic issues have generated much interest. One is concerned with the availability of the mass/count distinction in Mandarin nominal phrases. Another issue has to do with the semantics of classifiers. Are classifiers required by the noun semantics or the numeral semantics, when occurring in the syntactic context of Numeral/Quantifier-Classifier-Noun? Finally, how is the semantic notion of definiteness understood in article-less languages like Mandarin Chinese? Should its denotation be characterized with uniqueness or familiarity?

Article

Chinese Semantics  

Haihua Pan and Yuli Feng

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.

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

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 and Aspect in Mandarin Chinese  

Jiun-Shiung Wu

Chinese has been known to be a language without grammaticalized tense. However, this statement does not mean that native speakers of Chinese cannot tell the temporal location of a Chinese sentence. In addition to temporal phrases, which often are considered to identify the temporal location of a Chinese sentence, the aspectual value of a sentence, either situation aspect or viewpoint aspect, plays a significant role in this issue. Basically, a telic event receives a past interpretation unless explicitly specified otherwise whereas an atelic event gets a present reading until overridden. In addition, there is a possibility, based on examples where the past has an effect on the whole discourse in Chinese instead of single sentences, that tense is a discourse-level feature in Chinese. On the other hand, Chinese has a rich aspectual system, including four aspect markers: perfective le, experiential guò, durative zhe, and progressive zài. The former two are perfective markers and the latter are imperfective markers. Perfective le interacts with eventualities of different situation types to yield different readings. Going with an accomplishment, perfective le receives a completive reading or terminative reading. Presenting an achievement, perfective le gets a completive reading. Perfective le plus an activity forms an incomplete sentence. Together with a state, perfective le induces an inchoative reading. Most of the theories that explain the diverse readings of perfective le resort to the obvious, differentiating point in the temporal schema of a situation: either the (natural) final endpoint or the initial point. Experiential guò has several semantic properties, including at least one occurrence, a class meaning, discontinuity, compatibility only with recurrable situations, and temporal independence. There are two major accounts for the semantics of experiential guò: the temporal quantification account and the terminability as the sole inherent feature account. For the former, experiential guò is considered a temporal quantifier and all the properties follow from the semantic properties of a quantifier. For the latter, terminability is argued to be the sole inherent semantic property for experiential guò and all the properties are derived from discontinuity. The semantics of the two imperfective makers are less complicated. It is generally accepted that progressive zài presents an unbounded, ongoing event but that durative zhe introduces a resultative state. One possible further semantic distinction between progressive zài and durative zhe is that the former has an instant reading whereas the latter has an interval reading. Moreover, the rhetorical function of durative zhe needs to be considered so that a satisfactory explanation for the V1 zhe V2 construction can be achieved.

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

Verb Concatenation in Asian Linguistics  

Benjamin Slade

Across a large part of Asia are found a variety of verb-verb collocations, a prominent subset of which involves collocations typically displaying completive or resultative semantics. Such collocations are found in Indo-Aryan and Dravidian languages of South Asia, Turkic and Iranian languages of Central Asia, and in Chinese languages. In South and Central Asian languages, verb-verb collocations usually involve some added aspectual/Aktionsart element of meaning, frequently (though not exclusively) indicating completion of an event and sometimes involving speaker evaluation of the event (e.g., surprise, regret). Thus Hindi Rām-ne kitāb paṛh diyā, literally “John read-gave the book,” with the sense “John read the book out.” In Chinese languages, many verb-verb collocations involve a resultative sense, similar to English “Kim ran herself/her shoes ragged.” However, earlier Chinese verb-verb collocations were agent-oriented, for example, She-sha Ling Gong“(Someone) shot and killed Duke Ling,” where she is “shoot” and sha is “kill.” In Indo-Aryan, Dravidian, and Central Asian languages, we find verb-verb collocations that evolve from idiomaticization and grammaticalization of constructions involving converbs, for example, a collocation meaning “he, having eaten food, left” acquires the meaning “he ate food (completely).” Similarly, the Chinese verb-verb resultatives derive from earlier verb-verb “co-ordinate” constructions (originally with an overt morpheme er: ji er sha zhi “struck and killed him”), which functionally is similar to the role of converbs in South and Central Asian languages. While these Asian verb-verb collocations are strikingly similar in broad strokes, there are significant differences in the lexical, semantic, and morphosyntactic properties of these constructions in different languages. This is true even in closely related languages in the same language family, such as in Hindi and Nepali. The historical relation between verb-verb collocations in different Asian languages is unclear. Even in geographically proximate language families such as Indo-Aryan and Dravidian, there is evidence of independent development of verb-verb collocations, with possible later convergence. Central Asian verb-verb collocations being very similar in morphosyntactic structure to South Asian verb-verb collocations, it is tempting to suppose that for these there is some contact-based cause, particularly since such collocations are much less prominent in Turkic and Iranian languages outside of Central Asia. The relation between South and Central Asian verb-verb collocations and Chinese verb-verb collocations is even more opaque, and there are greater linguistic differences here. In this connection, further study of verb-verb collocations in Asian languages geographically intermediate to Central and South Asia, including Thai, Vietnamese, and Burmese, is required.