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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.


Non-passive Verbal Periphrases in the Romance Languages  

Brenda Laca

Verbal periphrases combine two verbal forms that share their arguments. One of the forms, [V2], lexically determines most of the argument structure of the whole construction, whereas the other, [V1], contributes the sort of abstract meaning usually associated with functional categories in the realms of tense, aspect, and modality and is often classified as a (semi-)auxiliary. In most cases, [V2] appears in a fixed nonfinite form (infinitive, gerund, or participle), whereas the inflection on [V1] is variable; the periphrastic pattern may also include a preposition introducing the nonfinite form. Research on verbal periphrases has concentrated on the differences between periphrastic patterns and free patterns of complementation or adjunction involving nonfinite clauses, on the syntactic analysis of those patterns, and on their semantic classification. The renewed interest in the field in recent years has two sources. On the one hand, research on grammaticalization has emphasized the importance of periphrases for our understanding of the way in which exponents for grammatical meanings emerge diachronically from lexical constructions. On the other hand, work in generative syntax (in the so-called cartographic approach) has taken periphrases as evidence for the postulated existence of highly articulated functional layers above a core verb phrase headed by a lexical verb. The bulk of nonpassive verbal periphrases either modify Aktionsart or express viewpoint aspect or relative tense. Research has revealed considerable differences in their inventory and in the status of cognate periphrases across Romance, as well as some parallel or convergent developments.


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.


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.


Nominalizations in the Romance Languages  

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.


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.


Compound and Complex Predicates in Japanese  

Taro Kageyama

Compound and complex predicates—predicates that consist of two or more lexical items and function as the predicate of a single sentence—present an important class of linguistic objects that pertain to an enormously wide range of issues in the interactions of morphology, phonology, syntax, and semantics. Japanese makes extensive use of compounding to expand a single verb into a complex one. These compounding processes range over multiple modules of the grammatical system, thus straddling the borders between morphology, syntax, phonology, and semantics. In terms of degree of phonological integration, two types of compound predicates can be distinguished. In the first type, called tight compound predicates, two elements from the native lexical stratum are tightly fused and inflect as a whole for tense. In this group, Verb-Verb compound verbs such as arai-nagasu [wash-let.flow] ‘to wash away’ and hare-agaru [sky.be.clear-go.up] ‘for the sky to clear up entirely’ are preponderant in numbers and productivity over Noun-Verb compound verbs such as tema-doru [time-take] ‘to take a lot of time (to finish).’ The second type, called loose compound predicates, takes the form of “Noun + Predicate (Verbal Noun [VN] or Adjectival Noun [AN]),” as in post-syntactic compounds like [sinsya : koonyuu] no okyakusama ([new.car : purchase] GEN customers) ‘customer(s) who purchase(d) a new car,’ where the symbol “:” stands for a short phonological break. Remarkably, loose compounding allows combinations of a transitive VN with its agent subject (external argument), as in [Supirubaagu : seisaku] no eiga ([Spielberg : produce] GEN film) ‘a film/films that Spielberg produces/produced’—a pattern that is illegitimate in tight compounds and has in fact been considered universally impossible in the world’s languages in verbal compounding and noun incorporation. In addition to a huge variety of tight and loose compound predicates, Japanese has an additional class of syntactic constructions that as a whole function as complex predicates. Typical examples are the light verb construction, where a clause headed by a VN is followed by the light verb suru ‘do,’ as in Tomodati wa sinsya o koonyuu (sae) sita [friend TOP new.car ACC purchase (even) did] ‘My friend (even) bought a new car’ and the human physical attribute construction, as in Sensei wa aoi me o site-iru [teacher TOP blue eye ACC do-ing] ‘My teacher has blue eyes.’ In these constructions, the nominal phrases immediately preceding the verb suru are semantically characterized as indefinite and non-referential and reject syntactic operations such as movement and deletion. The semantic indefiniteness and syntactic immobility of the NPs involved are also observed with a construction composed of a human subject and the verb aru ‘be,’ as Gakkai ni wa oozei no sankasya ga atta ‘There was a large number of participants at the conference.’ The constellation of such “word-like” properties shared by these compound and complex predicates poses challenging problems for current theories of morphology-syntax-semantics interactions with regard to such topics as lexical integrity, morphological compounding, syntactic incorporation, semantic incorporation, pseudo-incorporation, and indefinite/non-referential NPs.