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Title: Chinese middle constructions : a case of disposition ascription
Authors: Tao, Yuan
Keywords: Chinese language -- Semantics.
Chinese language -- Syntax.
Hong Kong Polytechnic University -- Dissertations
Issue Date: 2011
Publisher: The Hong Kong Polytechnic University
Abstract: For Chinese, 'the middle construction' is not a structurally well-defined category comparing to active (or neutral) and passive sentences. In view of the characterization of cross-linguistic middles in the literature, this study redefines Chinese middle constructions as Nan-yi middles and Neng-ke middles. What unites these two types of middles is the common pattern of syntax-semantics mapping, which relies on the notion of 'disposition ascription'. Disposition ascriptions are generic sentences that ascribe a dispositional property to the referent of the subject. Chinese middles instantiate disposition ascriptions, ascribing a dispositional property to the patient. Thus the essential properties of Chinese middles follow: (a) the occurrence ofthe patient in the subject position; (b) the genericity and stativity of an otherwise eventive predicate; and (c) the non-occurrence of the agent and its generic interpretation. In the syntax-semantics mapping of dispositionals, Nan-yi and Neng-ke modals play a crucial role, serving as overt markers for the dispositionality. Specifically, they select on the one hand the target of disposition ascription as the subject, and on the other hand a property denoting predicate as the complement. Or, to put it in another way, such modals encode the semantic relation between the target of disposition ascription and a property denoting predicate. Such a semantic relation can be further interpreted as a proper sense of CAUSE: cause + facilitate. Therefore, the modals are assumed to embody the light verb CAUSE[sub f], with the subscript f representing facilitate. Furthermore, given that the modals have adjectival counterparts, it is suggested that such modals are obtained by certain adjectives incorporating to the light verb CAUSE[sub f] in the lexicon (L-syntax). Thus the specifier ofthe modals, namely the patient-subject, is assigned the theta role Causerf. The complement of the modals is assumed to be a non-finite lP, containing a PRO representing the agent of the embedded verb. Since this PRO is unanteceded, the agent receives a generic interpretation. Moreover, it is proposed that this non-finite clause involves null operator movement, which establishes the co-reference of the empty patient-object and the Causer[sub f]-subject.
Description: 228 p. : ill. ; 30 cm.
PolyU Library Call No.: [THS] LG51 .H577P CBS 2011 Tao
Rights: All rights reserved.
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