Author: Tao, Yuan
Title: Chinese middle constructions : a case of disposition ascription
Degree: Ph.D.
Year: 2011
Subject: Chinese language -- Semantics.
Chinese language -- Syntax.
Hong Kong Polytechnic University -- Dissertations
Department: Department of Chinese and Bilingual Studies
Pages: 228 p. : ill. ; 30 cm.
Language: English
Abstract: For Chinese, 'the middle construction' is not a structurally well-defined category comparing to active (or neutral) and passive sentences. In view of the characterization of cross-linguistic middles in the literature, this study redefines Chinese middle constructions as Nan-yi middles and Neng-ke middles. What unites these two types of middles is the common pattern of syntax-semantics mapping, which relies on the notion of 'disposition ascription'. Disposition ascriptions are generic sentences that ascribe a dispositional property to the referent of the subject. Chinese middles instantiate disposition ascriptions, ascribing a dispositional property to the patient. Thus the essential properties of Chinese middles follow: (a) the occurrence ofthe patient in the subject position; (b) the genericity and stativity of an otherwise eventive predicate; and (c) the non-occurrence of the agent and its generic interpretation. In the syntax-semantics mapping of dispositionals, Nan-yi and Neng-ke modals play a crucial role, serving as overt markers for the dispositionality. Specifically, they select on the one hand the target of disposition ascription as the subject, and on the other hand a property denoting predicate as the complement. Or, to put it in another way, such modals encode the semantic relation between the target of disposition ascription and a property denoting predicate. Such a semantic relation can be further interpreted as a proper sense of CAUSE: cause + facilitate. Therefore, the modals are assumed to embody the light verb CAUSEf, with the subscript f representing facilitate. Furthermore, given that the modals have adjectival counterparts, it is suggested that such modals are obtained by certain adjectives incorporating to the light verb CAUSEf in the lexicon (L-syntax). Thus the specifier ofthe modals, namely the patient-subject, is assigned the theta role Causerf. The complement of the modals is assumed to be a non-finite lP, containing a PRO representing the agent of the embedded verb. Since this PRO is unanteceded, the agent receives a generic interpretation. Moreover, it is proposed that this non-finite clause involves null operator movement, which establishes the co-reference of the empty patient-object and the Causerf-subject.
Rights: All rights reserved
Access: open access

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