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An Enthymematic Account of the Deduction of the Negative Meaning of the Chinese Shenme-based Rhetorical Question Construction

Abstract

One controversy in the study of the Chinese shenme ‘what’-based rhetorical question (shenme-RQ for short) is how it takes on a negative interpretation. This paper attempts to apply enthymeme or rhetorical syllogism to the deduction of negative meaning of the shenme-RQ. Triggered by the shenme-RQ, or one of its words or phrases, the hearer extracts the explicit premise, fills in the premise that is implicit either in the context or in her or his encyclopedic knowledge, and deduces the conclusion, the negative meaning of the shenme-RQ. According to what premises are left out, the paper also explores the deduction patterns of the negative meaning of shenme-RQs and proposes a procedure for obtaining the negative interpretation. That said, the negative meaning of the shenme-RQ will be entrenched in the mind of its users and conventionalized in the Mandarin Chinese community via repeated use.

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The Interpretation of Null Subjects in a Radical Pro-drop Language: Topic Chains and Discourse-semantic Requirements in Chinese

Abstract

Based on original data collected through an online experiment, evidence is provided in this paper that the interpretation of null subjects in a radical pro-drop language like Chinese relies on the topic criterion proposed for consistent and partial pro-drop languages (Frascarelli 2007 and Frascarelli 2018), thereby supporting the theory that the null subject parameter implies an information-structural strategy for interpretation. Nevertheless, radical Chinese shows specificities that must be integrated in this theory for a comprehensive account. In particular, even though silent topic can start chains (consistent with the topic criterion), data show a significant preference for overt and local topics as antecedents. This locality requirement thus integrates phonological visibility in a general syntactic condition (minimal overt link condition), proposing an interesting parallel with the properties shown by partial pro-drop languages (Frascarelli and Jimenez-Fernandez in press). The present investigation also contributes to outline the structural differences existing between adverbial clauses in Chinese, supporting a distinction between central and peripheral adverbial clauses (Haegeman 2012). Specifically, while temporal and conditional clauses show the properties of nonrestrictive relative clauses, this is not the case for concessive clauses, which merged as subordinate clauses in either the C-domain or the high split-TP area. Differences between temporal and conditional clauses are attributed to the presence of an overt operator in the latter, and the pre-matrix position of adverbial clauses is explained in the light of their discourse role as frame-setters (Krifka 2007).

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Nonlinguistic Factors that Affect the Degree of Foreign Accent in Second Language Mandarin

Abstract

Previous research findings have established that a number of nonlinguistic factors can influence the strength of perceived foreign accent in second language (L2) speech. However, the majority of past studies have predominantly considered foreign accent of Indo-European languages, notably English. Therefore, it remains unknown whether the same factors influence foreign accent in other languages, such as Mandarin. This article reports findings from a study on nonlinguistic factors affecting the degree of foreign accent in Mandarin as an L2. Seventy L2 learners of Mandarin Chinese recorded speech samples and completed language background questionnaires. Speech samples were rated by 15 native Mandarin speakers for the degree of foreign accent on a 9-point Likert scale. Stepwise multiple regression analysis resulted in a 3-predictor model of pronunciation accuracy: self-rating of foreign accent, Hànyǔ Shuǐpíng Kǎoshì (HSK) proficiency level, and motivational reasons. Results suggest that (1) foreign accent in L2 Mandarin may not be affected by the same factors as in previous L2 accent studies and (2) the concepts of accentedness and comprehensibility may be more intricately linked in lexical tone languages such as Mandarin, in comparison to nontonal languages. These findings have wider implications for the field of L2 acquisition, which is dominated by studies of L2 English.

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A Cartographic Analysis of the Syntactic Structure of Mandarin Ba

Abstract

This paper analyzes the syntactic properties of the “ba-construction” or “disposal form” in Mandarin Chinese under new theoretical frameworks. By introducing the event-decomposition method proposed by Ramchand (2008), it argues that the ba-construction conveys the causativity and the resultativity of the event at the same time, which can be shown from the syntactic representation. Then, this paper tests the position of ba, assuming that it is a functional head, and the result of the test indicates that ba is a voice head in the hierarchy of functional projections proposed by Cinque (1999, 2006). The final word order of a ba-construction can be derived by the argument movement of the direct object and by a head movement of ba or by the merge of ba at the head position of the higher functional head of a split VoiceP.

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Derivation of the Apparent Narrow Scope of Sentence-Final Particles in Chinese: A Reply to Erlewine (2017)

Abstract

Erlewine (2017) suggests that certain sentence-final particles (SFPs) in Mandarin Chinese such as “sentential le” and eryi are located lower than the C-domain, using a number of arguments relating to the scopal interaction of these SFPs, subjects, and other verb phrase (vP) level elements. The present paper proposes an alternative view of the phenomena considered by Erlewine (2017) and maintains the claim that sentential le and eryi are C-domain elements. First, I argue that shi ‘be’, in the negative form – bu shi ‘not be’ – should be analyzed as an independent verb, which takes a clausal complement headed by le or eryi. The apparent narrow scope of le and eryi is due to the biclausal analysis of the entire sentence. Second, the sentence-initial determiner phrase (DP) cannot be analyzed as the real subject of the verb shi ‘be’ but must be analyzed as the matrix topic of the entire sentence and, therefore, is higher than the complementizer phrase (CP) headed by le or eryi. This explains why sometimes le or eryi does not have scope over the subject. Third, the wh-subject cannot get an indefinite reading in a sentence with a final particle le because the ∃-closure triggered by le applies at the I′-level by excluding the subject systematically (Huang 1982). The ∃-quantifier, which is introduced in a position lower than the surface subject position, cannot bind the wh-subject as a variable. The position where ∃ is generated remains independent of whether the ∃-closure is triggered by low particles, such as le, or by high particles, such as the yes–no question particle ma. Therefore, the low peripheral particles le and eryi are still within the CP domain and thus higher than vP.

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Mandarin and Scalarity

Abstract

This paper examines the use of Mandarin ‘also’ in contexts which dōu can be used as well, e.g., in no matter and even contexts. I argue that there is a correlation between the possibility of using and the presence of a scalar reading as well as a reference to an extremity on the scale in question. The data we present show that is invariably associated with scalar readings: is always used in scalar contexts, and contexts that are not obviously scalar become so when is used. I also argue that a scalar interpretation of wh-elements in no matter contexts can be derived with the aid of negation or modals, thus accounting for the felicitousness of in such contexts. The paper ends with a short note on lián, hypothesizing that its function is to introduce the extreme of the scale. I also argue that the licensing condition of the additive/basic , i.e., the presence of alternatives in the background, also plays a role in the scalar use of .

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AP-de (地) Adverbs in Mandarin

Abstract

Mandarin manner adverbs like dasheng ‘loudly’ (lit. ‘big voice’) occur both sentence-medially and sentence-finally, whereas adverbs formed with the adverbializer de (地) like kuaikuaide ‘quickly’ occur only sentence-medially. The behavior of AP-地 adverbs is puzzling under a classical adjunction analysis and under Cinque’s (1999) hierarchy of functional projections. Here, I argue that Mandarin manner adverbs have a uniform low attachment in V complement position and that preverbal/medial position reflects obligatory movement imposed by the status of 地 as a “concordializing element”.

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Parameter Preservation at the Syntax-PF Interface: The Ba Construction Revisited

Abstract

In this paper, I argue for an analysis that treats the ba construction in Chinese as a case of shape preservation-induced movement structure. Specifically, the robust preverbal adverbial and PP expressions and the mandatory ba-DP movement in ditransitive structures are both derived from a violable head directionality macroparameter under the Symmetrical Syntax Hypothesis, which allows directionality parameters to examine word order throughout the derivation. In addition to being able to capture the parallel syntactic properties of Scandinavian object shift, this account receives further empirical support from word order facts of Archaic Chinese and Bambara.

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Shén (神) in Modern Chinese

Abstract

In modern Chinese, a new degree adverb shén 神 is emerging. Expressions such as shénhăochī 神好吃 and shényǒuqù 神有趣 are found in colloquial Chinese, and they even appear as headlines to get readers’ attention. Shén originally refers to the dominator and creator of the universe. In modern Chinese, along with the original meaning, people frequently use shén to modify things (e.g., shén jīyīn 神基因) or actions (e.g., shén huí 神回). How many senses does shén have? How did shén derive the use of degree adverb? The paper targets on shén in modern Chinese, aiming to study its senses, to work out the relations among the various usages, and to find out how it generated the use of degree adverb. The conclusion shows that the senses of shén were derived from its original meaning either directly or indirectly through reanalysis, inference, metaphorization, and metonymization. The use of degree adverb was generated through metaphorization and reanalysis.

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Chinese Motion-Directional Construction: A Conceptual and Cognitive Analysis

Abstract

This article proposes an analysis of the Motion-Directional Construction in Chinese in the Conceptual-Cognitive approach as outlined by Jackendoff and Langacker. This article first argues that the Motion-Directional Construction consists of conceptual subordination, expressing different mental spaces. Then, it examines the syntactic and semantic behaviors of the construction arguing that it is more like a constructional idiom. In particular, we discuss the case of pa ‘climb’ and generalize further that the motion verbs in Chinese typically express manners of movement. Within the Conceptual Semantics, we argue that a level of grammatical relation may not be necessary; it is the argument and conceptual structures that we need in the cognitive structure. Finally, we present the data and suggest the typological relevance of the Motion-Directional Construction.

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