Expansion and closure : towards a theory of Wh-construals in Chinese

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Expansion and closure : towards a theory of Wh-construals in Chinese


Author: He, Chuansheng
Title: Expansion and closure : towards a theory of Wh-construals in Chinese
Degree: Ph.D.
Year: 2011
Subject: Chinese language -- Semantics.
Chinese language -- Syntax.
Hong Kong Polytechnic University -- Dissertations
Department: Dept. of Chinese and Bilingual Studies
Pages: viii, 210 p. : ill. ; 30 cm.
Language: English
InnoPac Record: http://library.polyu.edu.hk/record=b2462493
URI: http://theses.lib.polyu.edu.hk/handle/200/6263
Abstract: This dissertation defends a Hamblin (1973) semantics for the construals of wh-in-situ expressions in Chinese. It attempts to achieve three aims. The first aim concerns the problems facing LF movement approach and the Unselective Binding approach towards wh-construals. It is argued that though LF movement approach has difficulty in explaining island-escaping behavior of some wh-in-situ expressions and their association with zhi 'only', the unselective binding approach is also not successful in leaving the wh-phrase in situ, because this treatment faces equally serious problems, mostly problems of semantic misinterpretations. The conclusion we reached is that we may need to take a different approach that combines the merits of both approaches: (1) keeps wh-phrases in-situ (predicting association with zhi 'only' and no island constraints); (2) but interpret them in non-in-situ positions (getting semantics right). The second aim of this dissertation is to develop a Hamblin-semantics for wh-construals in Chinese that can achieve the two merits. The working assumption made in this approach is that some wh-phrases directly denote sets of alternatives, which is supported by empirical evidence. The direct consequence from this assumption is that we need a so-called pointwise functional application, which has the effect of 'extracting' and interpreting wh-in-situ in a displaced position without resorting to covert movement. This effect is achieved by a process called expansion inherent in the definition of the pointwise functional application. It is an operation in semantics, insensitive to syntactic islands. If it is left unclosed, the expansion returns a set of propositions, that is, the denotation of questions. But this expansion may be closed by appropriate quantificational operators. The third aim of this dissertation is to testify how this theory, namely expansion and closure, works for wh-construals in Chinese in a better way. Two wh-constructions are investigated: wh-questions and wulun-wh-dou constructions. For wh-questions, we show how the pointwise functional application rule obtains wide-scope interpretations of interrogative wh-in-situ expressions across three typical island structures under the assumption that there is no movement. It achieves this result at no additional cost: just assuming wh-in-situ expressions denotes sets of alternatives that can expand via a simple pointwise functional application rule. It is pointed out that though LF movement can also obtain correct semantics, our theory is advantageous over LF movement in several aspects. The investigation of the wulun-wh-dou constructions is mainly concerned with the mechanism of closure. It is proposed that the adverb wulun is a universal operator that universally closes the expansion of alternatives denoted or expanded by wh-phrases. If this is true, we are committed to treating dou (the most common matching item in the consequent clause) as a non-universal-quantificational element. Adopting the proposal of dou as an existential quantifier serving for skolemization (Huang 1995, 1996), we provide a detailed characterization of the interaction between wulun and dou in both the nominal and sentential wulun-dou constructions. Several novel ideas are proposed for wulun-dou structures. One is that wulun-XP is base-generated within dou VP domain, the other is that wulun-wh is the instantiation for distributive quantification. Some consequences of these ideas are discussed.

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