Springer Nature is making SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates

Chinese Conditionals and the Theory of Conditionals

  • 289 Accesses

  • 13 Citations

Abstract

As is well known, in conditionals and, more generally, in structures involving adverbs of quantification, indefinite NPs like a cat display a variable quantificational force. Within DRT this phenomenon is analyzed by assimilating indefinites to variables. Unlike other variable-like elements, however, indefinites cannot be anaphoric to something else. That is, one cannot say things like "a cat usually meows if a cat is hungry" meaning "a cat usually meows if it is hungry." This is generally explained in terms of a novelty condition: indefinites must introduce novel variables. Cheng and Huang (1996) discuss and analyze two types of Chinese conditionals in which wh- words display quantificational variability. In one type of conditional, their behavior is fully analogous to that of indefinites. In the other, they behave like indefinites in the antecedent, while in the consequent they must be interpreted as bound pronouns. Thus, in DR-theoretic terms, Chinese wh-words obey the novelty condition in the antecedent but not in the consequent of a conditional. This behavior is unexpected. The present paper addresses this issue. The main claim is that a certain version of Dynamic Semantics leads one to expect elements with exactly the properties of Chinese wh-words. In particular, Dynamic Semantics makes it possible to reverse, in a sense, the classic DR-theoretic strategy. One can view indefinites as existentially quantified terms: however, their existential force can be overridden by operators in their local environment that wipe out their existential force, as it were, and get them to act like variables. If one takes this line, the Novelty Condition becomes dispensable and the problem disappears. The behavior of Chinese wh-words is also compared to that of other elements analyzable as indefinite pronominals, such as si in Italian or one in English.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

REFERENCES

  1. Barwise, Jonathan and Robin Cooper (1981) “Generalized Quantifiers and Natural Language,” Linguistics and Philosophy 4, 159–219.

  2. Berman, Stephen (1987) A Situation-Based Semantics for Adverbs of Quantification,” in Jim Blevins and Anne Vainikka (eds.) UMOP 12, GLSA, University of Massachusetts.

  3. Berman, Stephen (1991) The Semantics of Open Sentences, PhD dissertation, University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Reprinted in 1994 by Garland, New York.

  4. Carlson, Greg (1977) Reference to Kinds in English, PhD dissertation, the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Published by 1980 by Garland, New York.

  5. Cheng, Lisa (1995) “On Dou-Quantification,” Journal of East Asian Linguistics 4, 197–234.

  6. Cheng, Lisa and James Huang (1996) “Two Types of Donkey Sentences,” Natural Language Semantics 4, 121–163.

  7. Chierchia, Gennaro (1992) “Anaphora and Dynamic Binding,” Linguistics and Philosophy 15, 111–183.

  8. Chierchia, Gennaro (1995a) Dynamics of Meaning. Anaphora, Presupposition and the Theory of Grammar, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, Illinois.

  9. Chierchia, Gennaro (1995b) “The Variability of Impersonal Subjects,” in E. Bach, E. Jelinek, A. Kratzer and B. H. Partee (eds.), Quantification in Natural Language, Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht, pp. 107–144.

  10. Chomsky, Noam (1995) The Minimalist Program, MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

  11. Cinque, Guglielmo (1988) “On Si-construction and the Theory of Arb,” Linguistic Inquiry 19, 521–582.

  12. Dayal, Veneeta (1992) “Two Types of Universal Terms in Questions,” Proceedings of NELS 22, pp. 443–457.

  13. Dekker, Paul (1993) “Existential Disclosure,” Linguistics and Philosophy 16, 561–587.

  14. Dekker, Paul (1996) “The Value of Variables in Dynamic Semantics”, Linguistics and Philosophy 3, 211–257.

  15. Diesing, Molly (1992) Indefinites, MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

  16. Giorgi, Alessandra (1984) “Towards a Theory of Long Distance Anaphors: A GB Approach”, The Linguistic Review, 307–361.

  17. Groenendijk, Jeroen and Martin Stokhof (1990) “Dynamic Montague Grammar,” in Laszlo Kalman and Lazslo Polos (eds.), Papers on the Second Symposium on Logic and Language, Akademiai Kiado, Budapest.

  18. Groenendijk, Jeroen and Martin Stokhof (1991) “Dynamic Predicate Logic,” Linguistics and Philosophy 14, 39–100.

  19. Hamblin, C. L. (1973) “Questions in Montague English,” Foundations of Language 10, 41–53.

  20. Heim, Irene (1982) The Semantics of Definite and Indefinite Noun Phrases, PhD dissertation, University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Published in 1989 by Garland, New York.

  21. Heim, Irene (1987) “Where does the Definiteness Restriction Apply? Evidence from the Definiteness of Variables,” in A. Ter Meulen and E. Reuland (eds.), The Representation of (In)definiteness, MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, pp. 21–42.

  22. Heim, Irene (1990) “E-Type Pronouns and Donkey Anaphroa,” Linguistics and Philosophy 13, 183–221.

  23. Heim, Irene (1992) “Presupposition Projection and the Semantics of Attitude Verbs,” Journal of Semantics 9, 183–221.

  24. Heim, Irene and Angelika Kratzer (1997) Semantics in Generative Grammar, Blackwell, Oxford.

  25. Higginbotham, James (1980) “Anaphora and GB: Some Preliminary Remarks,” in J. Jensen (ed.), Proceedings of NELS 10, pp. 223–237.

  26. Huang, James (1987) “Existential Sentences in Chinese and (In)definiteness,” in A. Ter Meulen and E. Reuland (eds.), The Representation of (In)definiteness, MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, pp. 226–253.

  27. Kadmon, Nirit (1990) “Uniqueness,” Linguistics and Philosophy 13, 273–324.

  28. Kamp, Hans and Uwe Reyle (1993) From Discourse to Logic, Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht.

  29. Kanazawa, Makoto (1994) “Weak vs. Strong Readings of Donkey Sentences and Monotonicity Inferences in a Dynamic Setting,” Linguistics and Philosophy 17, 109–158.

  30. Kratzer, Angelika (1981) “The National Category of Modality,” in H. Eikmeyer and H. Rieser (eds.), Words, Worlds and Context, De Gruyter, Berlin, pp. 38–74.

  31. Kratzer, Angelika (1995) “Individual Level Predicates vs. Stage Level Predicates,” in G. Carlson and F. J. Pelletier (eds.), The Generic Book, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, Illinois, pp. 125–175.

  32. Krifka, Manfred (1992) “Definite NPs Aren't Quantifiers,” Linguistic Inquiry, 23: 156–163.

  33. Krifka, Manfred (1998) “Non-novel Indefinites and Adverbial Quantification,” unpublished paper, University Texas at Austin.

  34. Lewis, David (1975) “Adverbs of Quantification,” in E. Keenan (ed.), Formal Semantics of Natural Language, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, pp. 3–15.

  35. Lin, Jo-wang (1996) Polarity Licensing and Wh-phrase Quantification in Chinese, PhD dissertation, University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

  36. Montague, Richard (1970) “English as a Formal Language,” in B. Visentini (ed.), Linguaggi nella Societa' e nella Tecnica, Edizioni di Comunita', Milano.

  37. Partee, Barbara H. (1989) “Binding Implicit Variables in Quantified Contexts,” in C. Wilshire, B. Music and R. Graczyk (eds.), Papers from CLS 25, Chicago, Illinois, pp. 342–365.

  38. Percus, Orin (1998) “A Somewhat more Definite Article,” in Proceedings of Salt 8, CLC, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York.

  39. Reinhart, Tanya (1983) Anaphora and Semantic Interpretation, Croom Helm, London.

  40. Reinhart, Tanya (1987) “Specifier and Operator Binding,” in E. Reuland and A. ter Meulen (eds.), The Representations of (In)definiteness, MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, pp. 130–167.

  41. Root, Rebecca (1986) The Semantics of Anaphora in Discourse, PhD dissertation, University of Texas, Austin.

  42. Rooth, Mats (1987) “Noun Phrase Interpretation in Montague Grammar, File Change Semantics and Situation Semantics,” in P. Gardenfors (ed.), Generalized Quantifiers: Linguistic and Logical Approaches, Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht.

  43. Rooth, Mats (1995) “Indefinites, Adverbs of Quantification and Focus Semantics,” in G. Carlson and F.J. Pelletier (eds.) The Generic Book, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, Illinois, pp. 265–299.

  44. Safir, Ken (1985) Syntactic Chains, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.

  45. Stalnaker, Robert (1978) “Assertion,” in P. Cole (ed.), Syntax and Semantics 9: Pragmatics, Academic Press, New York, pp. 315–322.

  46. von Fintel, Kai (1994) Restrictions on Quantifier Domains, PhD Dissertation, University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

Download references

Author information

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Chierchia, G. Chinese Conditionals and the Theory of Conditionals. Journal of East Asian Linguistics 9, 1–54 (2000). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1008317108361

Download citation

Keywords

  • Local Environment
  • Main Claim
  • Dynamic Semantic
  • Theoretical Language
  • Paper Address