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The degree use of the possessive verb yǒu in Mandarin Chinese: a unified analysis and its theoretical implications

Journal of East Asian Linguistics Aims and scope

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The structure and meaning of possessive verbs have received competing analyses in the literature. Almost all the analyses were developed based on the English have and intended to apply cross-linguistically. In this paper, I consider the rather unique degree use of the Mandarin Chinese possessive verb yǒu, in the “X + yǒu + Y + G(radable phrase)” construction. This construction has some peculiar empirical properties that are worth in-depth elaboration. I argue that the construction is an equative construction, semantically comparable to the English as…as degree construction. Yǒu in this construction takes a covert small clause as the underlying object that specifies a sub-interval/subset relation between X’s and Y’s degrees on the dimension specified by the G element. The sub-interval/subset relation is warranted by considering the ontological representation of degrees as intervals on a scale. The degree use of yǒu makes only formal, but not content, contributions to the semantics of the “X + yǒu + Y + G” construction. It shares the same structure and meaning as non-degree uses of yǒu. No other analysis of possessive verbs than the small clause-based analysis can capture this degree use of yǒu. Hence, through examining a language-specific phenomenon, the paper locates among several competing analyses of possessive verbs the most explanatorily adequate one.

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Correspondence to Zhiguo Xie.

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Xie, Z. The degree use of the possessive verb yǒu in Mandarin Chinese: a unified analysis and its theoretical implications. J East Asian Linguist 23, 113–156 (2014).

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