Predication and information structure in Mandarin Chinese

Abstract

The purpose of this article is to show that long-established insights into the close relation between predicate structure and information structure in Mandarin Chinese can account for a number of concrete observations once they are formalized. In the course of the discussion, I will develop formal definitions of the principle I refer to as the Predicate-Comment Mapping Hypothesis and of the copula and comment marker shi. After discussing how they apply to simple assertive clauses, I will show that these definitions allow us to derive the correct predictions about the differences between three different types of polarity questions—the so-called ma questions, shi-bu-shi questions and A-neg-A questions.

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Abbreviations

1:

first person

2:

second person

3:

third person

ACC :

accusative

CONT :

continuous

COS :

change of state

DAT :

Dative

DE :

sentence final particle de

EXP :

experiential aspect

ADV :

adverbializing particle

AL :

attributive linker

BA :

the particle ba

CL :

classifier

NEG :

negation

PFV :

perfective aspect

PL :

plural

Q :

the question particle ma

QP :

a question particle other than ma

FM :

focus marker

IP :

interrogative particle

MASC :

masculine

NA :

suffix in Konni

RES :

resultative

S :

singular

SHI :

the copula shi

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Correspondence to Kilu von Prince.

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von Prince, K. Predication and information structure in Mandarin Chinese. J East Asian Linguist 21, 329–366 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10831-012-9091-x

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Keywords

  • Focus
  • Polarity questions
  • Topic comment
  • Information structure
  • Chinese
  • Contrastivity
  • Copula
  • Clefts