Journal of East Asian Linguistics

, Volume 26, Issue 4, pp 389–409 | Cite as

A crosslinguistic syntax of scalar and non-scalar focus particle sentences: the view from Vietnamese and Chinese

  • Daniel HoleEmail author


The article proposes a distributed syntax for Vietnamese and Chinese focus particle sentences. It disentangles syntactically the inclusion and exclusion of alternatives typical of focus particle uses from scalar components of meaning that many focus particle sentences convey. Vietnamese and Chinese are shown to have highly elaborate lexical paradigms that map plausibly onto the postulated syntactic and semantic functions. The article then turns to very similar phenomena from German and Dutch. It concludes with the hunch that the system as it unfolds in Vietnamese and Chinese is, in fact, simply an explicit instantiation of a pattern underlying focus particle sentences at a much more general level.


Focus particles Scalarity Vietnamese Chinese Germanic 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Alleton, Viviane. 1972. Les adverbes en chinois moderne. Den Haag, Paris: Mouton & Co.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Altmann, Hans. 1978. Gradpartikel-Probleme. Tübingen: Narr.Google Scholar
  3. Badan, Linda, and Francesca del Gobbo. 2011. On the syntax of Topic and Focus in Chinese. In Mapping the left periphery: The cartography of syntactic structures, vol. 5, ed. Paola Benincà, and Nicola Munar, 63–91. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Barbiers, Sjef. 2010. Focus particle doubling. In Structure preserved: Studies in syntax for Jan Koster, ed. Jan-Wouter Zwart, and Marc de Vries, 21–30. Amsterdam/New York: Benjamins.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bayer, Josef. 1996. Directionality and logical form: On the scope of focusing particles and Wh-in-situ. Dordrecht: Kluwer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Beaver, David, and Brady Clark. 2009. Sense and sensitivity: How focus determines meaning, vol. 12. Hoboken: Wiley.Google Scholar
  7. Büring, Daniel, and Katharina Hartmann. 2001. The syntax and semantics of focus-sensitive particles in German. Natural Language & Linguistic Theory 19: 229–281.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Chomsky, Noam. 1995. The minimalist program, vol. 28. Cambridge, MA: MIT press.Google Scholar
  9. Duffield, Nigel. 2013. Head-first: On the head-initiality of Vietnamese clauses. In Linguistics of Vietnamese: An international survey, ed. Daniel Hole, and Elisabeth Löbel, 127–155. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.Google Scholar
  10. Eckardt, Regine. 2001. Reanalysing selbst. Natural Language Semantics 9: 371–412.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Erlewine, Michael Yoshitake. 2014. Movement out of focus. PhD dissertation, MIT, Cambridge, MA.Google Scholar
  12. Ernst, Thomas. 1995. Negation in mandarin Chinese. Natural Language & Linguistic Theory 13 (4): 665–707.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Gast, Volker, and Johan van der Auwera. 2011. Scalar additive operators in the languages of Europe. Language 87 (1): 2–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Hole, Daniel. 2004. Focus and background marking in Mandarin Chinese: System and theory behind cái, jiù, dōu and yĕ. London and New York: Routledge Curzon.Google Scholar
  15. Hole, Daniel. 2008. EVEN, ALSO and ONLY in Vietnamese. In Interdisciplinary studies in information structure 11, ed. Shinichiro Ishihara, Svetlana Petrova, and Anne Schwarz, 1–54. Potsdam: Universitätsverlag Potsdam.Google Scholar
  16. Hole, Daniel. 2013. Focus particles and related entities in Vietnamese. In Linguistics of Vietnamese: An international survey, ed. Daniel Hole, and Elisabeth Löbel, 265–303. Berlin/Boston: de Gruyter.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Hole, Daniel. 2015. A distributed syntax for evaluative ‘only’ sentences in German. Zeitschrift für Sprachwissenschaft 34 (1): 43–77.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Horn, Laurence R. 1969. A presuppositional analysis of only and even. In Proceedings of the Fifth Annual Meeting of the Chicago Linguistics Society, 97–108. Chicago: Chicago Linguistic Society.Google Scholar
  19. Hou, Xuechao. 1998. Xiandai Hanyu Xuci Cidian [Dictionary of function words in contemporary Chinese]. Beijing: Beijing Daxue Chubanshe.Google Scholar
  20. Jacobs, Joachim. 1983. Fokus und Skalen. Zur Syntax und Semantik der Gradpartikeln im Deutschen. Tübingen: Niemeyer.Google Scholar
  21. Karttunen, Lauri, and Stanley Peters. 1979. Conventional Implicatures. In Syntax and semantics 11: Presupposition, ed. Oh Choon-Kyu, and David A. Dinneen, 1–56. New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  22. Klinedinst, Nathan. 2004. Only scalar only. Paper presented at the presupposition and implicature workshop, Paris, October 5, 2004.Google Scholar
  23. König, Ekkehard. 1991. The meaning of focus particles. A comparative perspective. London and New York: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Kratzer, Angelika. 1996. Severing the external argument from its verb. In Phrase structure and the lexicon, ed. Johan Rooryck, and Laurie Zaring, 109–137. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishing.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Krifka, Manfred. 1992. A compositional semantics for multiple focus constructions. In Informationsstruktur und Grammatik, ed. Joachim Jacobs, 17–53. Opladen: Westdeutscher Verlag.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Lai, Huei-ling. 1999. Rejected expectations: The scalar particles cai and jiu in Mandarin Chinese. Linguistics 37 (4): 625–661.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Lerner, Jean-Yves, and Thomas Ede Zimmermann. 1981. Mehrdimensionale Semantik. Die Präsuppositionen und die Kontextabhängigkeit von nur. In Arbeitspapier des Sonderforschungsbereichs 99. Universität Konstanz.Google Scholar
  28. Lü, Shuxiang. 1995. Xiandai hanyu babai ci [Eight hundred words in modern Chinese. Tenth edition]. Beijing: Shangwu Yinshuguan.Google Scholar
  29. Paris, Marie-Claude. 1981. Problèmes de syntaxe et de sémantique en linguistique chinoise. In Mémoires de l’Institut des Hautes Etudes Chinoises XX. Paris: Collège de France.Google Scholar
  30. Reis, Marga. 2005. On the syntax of so-called focus particles in German—a reply to Büring and Hartmann 2001. Natural Language & Linguistic Theory 23 (2): 459–483.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Rooth, Mats. 1992. A theory of focus interpretation. Natural Language Semantics 1: 75–116.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Shyu, Shu-ing. 1995. The syntax of focus and topic in Mandarin Chinese. PhD dissertation, University of Southern California at Los Angeles.Google Scholar
  33. Stepanov, Artur, and Wei-tien Dylan Tsai. 2008. Cartography and licensing of wh-adjuncts: A cross-linguistic perspective. Natural Language & Linguistic Theory 26 (3): 589–638.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Sudhoff, Stefan. 2010. Focus particles in German. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: Benjamins.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Tsai, Cheng-Yu. 2015. Toward a theory of mandarin quantification. PhD dissertation. Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.Google Scholar
  36. Tsai, Wei-tien Dylan. 2008. Left periphery and how-why alternations. Journal of East Asian Linguistics 17 (2): 83–115.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Xiang, Ming. 2008. Plurality, maximality and scalar inferences: A case study of Mandarin dou. Journal of East Asian Linguistics 17: 227–245.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Xiang, Yimei. 2016. Mandarin particle dou: A pre-exhaustification exhaustifier. In Empirical issues in syntax and semantics 11, ed. Christopher Piñón, 275–304. Paris: Colloque de syntaxe et sémantique à Paris (CSSP).Google Scholar
  39. Zhang, Ning. 1997. Syntactic dependencies in Mandarin Chinese. PhD dissertation, University of Toronto.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of LinguisticsUniversity of StuttgartStuttgartGermany

Personalised recommendations