Why Plurality of the Possessor Matters in Mandarin Chinese Inalienable Possession

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Abstract

In this paper, I first introduce what inalienable possession structure (IPS) is cross-linguistically as well as how to form an IPS in Mandarin Chinese, i.e., pronoun + body part or kinship term, etc. With the help of postverbal IPS, I relate the lack of plural pronominal possessor in IPS, which is never discussed in the literature, to the prohibition of distributivity over distributivity, i.e., the semantic anomaly of distributive plural possessor over the stubborn distributivity inherent to Chinese IPS nouns. I also argue that the requirement of a plural pronominal possessor seen in the IPS of public places, spatial directions, and professional titles is a result of stubborn collectivity shared by these nouns. In the end, I discuss the association between the distinction of inalienable and alienable nouns and that of active and stative verbs.

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