Predication and information structure in Mandarin Chinese


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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first person


second person


third person






change of state



DE :

sentence final particle de


experiential aspect


adverbializing particle

AL :

attributive linker

BA :

the particle ba

CL :





perfective aspect

PL :


Q :

the question particle ma

QP :

a question particle other than ma

FM :

focus marker

IP :

interrogative particle



NA :

suffix in Konni



S :



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).

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