Referentiality, individuation and incompletive readings

Abstract

As an exception to Krifka’s (in: Bartsch, Benthem, Emde Boas,Semantics and contextual expression, CSLI Publications, Stanford, 1989) famous generalization that a quantized incremental theme always induces an event-homomorphic completive reading, Singh (Annual Meeting of the Berkeley Linguistics Society 17(1): 469–479, 1991, Journal of East Asian Linguistics 3(2): 107–146, 1998) observes that in Hindi only quantized mass noun phrases entail a completive reading, but unexpectedly quantized count noun phrases can give rise to an incompletive reading. She proposes that count nouns can introduce a partial-affectedness thematic relation, whereas mass nouns introduce a total-affectedness thematic relation. With new data in Mandarin, instead of the count/mass distinction, I argue that referentiality of the direct object is a crucial factor, because incompletive readings are only felicitous with direct objects interpreted referentially for consumption verbs in Mandarin.

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Notes

  1. 1.

     Some native speakers may find these sentences somewhat odd, because they may prefer to put a definite direct object in the pre-verbal position.

  2. 2.

     Refer to Li (2013) for the actual syntactic tests in support of the two different syntactic structures.

  3. 3.

     To avoid confusion about the two different types of ClPs, I have slightly modified the labeling in Li’s (2013) proposal by using M and MP instead here.

  4. 4.

     A reviewer comments that the semantics of \(D_{part}\) is somewhat unnecessarily complex. Indeed, this could be rectified if the syntax were to be changed in favor of a simpler semantic composition but would result in very unnatural and unattested syntax, which would also be an unwelcome result. Because complicated semantic types are not unheard of for abstract linguistic elements, I consider it a better solution than changing the well-established structures.

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Acknowledgements

This paper evolved from a chapter of my dissertation, and a previous shorter version was presented at LSA 2018. I would like to thank my dissertation committee Christopher Kennedy, Ming Xiang, and Itamar Francez at the University of Chicago for all their comments on this paper, and the audience at LSA 2018 for their helpful feedback on this project. Many thanks too to my great friend Carlos Cisneros for discussing the drafts of this paper with me. I am also grateful to my colleagues at Nanjing University, Qiongpeng Luo, Chen Wang and Yi-Hsun Chen for their discussions on this project. In addition, I would like to thank the two anonymous reviewers and the JEAL Editorial Board for providing me with extremely helpful feedback for improving this paper.

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Zhang, A. Referentiality, individuation and incompletive readings. J East Asian Linguist 29, 435–468 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10831-020-09217-5

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Keywords

  • Referentiality
  • Individuation
  • Atomicity
  • Incompletive readings
  • Incremental-theme