Journal of East Asian Linguistics

, Volume 18, Issue 3, pp 197–232 | Cite as

Dislocation focus construction in Chinese

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The use of the Dislocation Focus Construction (DFC) (also known as “Right Dislocation”) in colloquial Chinese (including Cantonese and Mandarin) gives rise to various non-canonical word orders. In DFCs, the sentence particle (SP) occurs in a sentence-medial position. The pre- and post-SP materials are demonstrated to be syntactically connected, based on four diagnostic tests, namely (i) the zinghai ‘only’ test, (ii) the doudai (“wh-the-hell”) test, (iii) polarity item licensing, and (iv) Principle C violations. The findings offer new insights into the syntax of the Chinese left periphery and constraints on focus movement. First, the observations entail that Chinese CPs are head-initial, and an XP is obligatorily moved around the SP to a position higher than the CP. Second, the XP-raising in the DFC is argued to be driven by focus because of the focus interpretation induced. It is discovered that the focus movement is subject to the Spine Constraint, which turns out to be remarkably similar to the properties of the Nuclear Stress Rule (e.g., selection of focus set and metrical invisibility). It is argued that the DFC is the syntactic realization of the rule.


Dislocation Focus movement Sentence particle Head-initial CP Word order Nuclear stress rule Cantonese Mandarin 



The analysis of the DFC is based on my UCLA MA thesis. I am indebted to the inspiration from and discussion with Tim Stowell, Daniel Bu¨ring, Anoop Mahajan, and Dominique Sportiche. I have benefited greatly from the discussion with Francesca Del Gobbo, Victor Manfredi, Andrew Nevins, Thomas Lee, Dylan Tsai, and Michael Wagner. I am grateful for the comments from an anonymous reviewer. Special thanks go to Andrew Simpson for his suggestions and help and to James Huang for his encouragement. The preliminary version of this paper was presented at UCLA Syntax/Semantics seminar and the First International Conference on East Asian Linguistics held at the University of Toronto on November 10–12, 2006. I also thank those audiences for comments and suggestions.

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© The Author(s) 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of LinguisticsUniversity of CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA

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