Functions of Chinese classifiers : a syntax-semantics interface account

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Functions of Chinese classifiers : a syntax-semantics interface account


Author: Jin, Jing
Title: Functions of Chinese classifiers : a syntax-semantics interface account
Degree: Ph.D.
Year: 2013
Subject: Chinese language -- Classifiers.
Chinese language -- Grammer.
Hong Kong Polytechnic University -- Dissertations
Department: Dept. of Chinese and Bilingual Studies
Pages: 264 p. : ill. ; 30 cm.
Language: English
InnoPac Record:
Abstract: This dissertation aims to investigate grammatical functions of Chinese classifiers and to explore the semantics-to-syntax mapping of numeral classifier constructions. Three main sub-issues will be studied: (i) the semantic and syntactic properties of classifiers, (ii) the underlying structure of different types of numeral classifier constructions, and (iii) the referential properties of [Num-Cl-N]. A unified treatment of grammatical functions of classifiers will be proposed that classifiers, irrespective of their subcategory, uniformly serve as partition units which specify criteria for defining individuated, non-overlapped divisions on a quantity/quality scale. A generalization will be put forth that as for the Chinese classifier system, the semantic factor which truly syntactically matters is whether the classifier is used as a standardized interval unit that encodes a well-determined measure value, while the dichotomies claimed to be syntactically relevant in previous studies, including classifiers proper vs. measure words (e.g. Tai 1994), count-classifiers vs. massifiers (Cheng & Sybesma 1998), and [+Counting] classifiers vs. [+ Measure] classifiers (X.-P. Li 20ll), are untenable. To syntactically capture this, the present study will distinguish two types of Classifier Phrases, where the semantic and syntactic discrepancies of Chinese classifiers will be attributed to a transitive vs. intransitive configuration distinction (i.e. whether or not taking an NP complement) between the two types of Cls.
The present study will take advantage of insights from the existing syntactic investigation of the internal structure of noun phrases (e.g. Abney 1987; Longobardi 1994; Szabolcsi 1994; Zamparelli 2000) and pursue the idea that a particular interpretive effect should be associated with the projection of a particular functional layer. Furthermore, integrating Rizzi's (1997, 2004) analysis for the clausal domain into the syntactic study of the nominal phrase, the dissertation will assume that within the nominal phrase "specifiers are licensed by the substantive featural content of their heads" (2004: 243). Along this line, different functional projections will be assigned to different numeral classifier constructions, including the Monotonicity Phrase (MonP in the sense of Schwarzschild (2006)), the Modifier Phrase (cf. Tsai 2011), the DP-internal Focus Phrase (cf. Giusti 1996; Aboh 2004; Ntelitheos 2004; Corver & van Koppen 2009), and the Evaluative Phrase (EvalP in the sense of Doetjes & Rooryck (2002)). With respect to the referential properties of [Num-Cl-N], the present study will argue that Chinese [Num-Cl-N] is born property-denoting rather than inherently carrying an existential force. In accordance with the Montague Grammar (Heim & Kratzer 1998) in assuming that arguments should be individual-denoting elements (of the semantic type <e> or «e, t>, t>) whereas predicates must be property-denoting (of the semantic type <e, t>), this dissertation will make a distinction in terms of the syntactic category between argumental and predictive [Num-Cl-N] (cf. Abney 1987; Stowell 1990; Longobardi 1994; Szabolcsi 1994; Chierchia 1998a, 1998b; Zamparelli 2000). It will be hypothesized that the argumental [Num-Cl-N] correlates with a DP layer whereas the predicative [Num-Cl-N] does not project into a DP. Such a DP, headed by a null D, starts out as merely a variable, whose interpretation (definite, existential, or non-referential) needs to be determined by the operator contextually binding it.

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