A Syntactic and Semantic Investigation into Topic and Focus Articulations in Chinese (Mandarin and Wu Dialects)

Project: Research

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  • Haihua PAN (Principal Investigator / Project Coordinator)Department of Linguistics and Translation
  • Hai-hua PAN (Principal Investigator / Project Coordinator)
  • Yang Shen (Co-Investigator)
  • Yang Shen (Co-Investigator)


Topicalization and focalization are two important linguistic devices of structuring utterances and partitioning information. This project aims to find, on the one hand, the basic mechanism of the topic and focus articulations in Chinese: how topic is structured and licensed, and how focus is assigned, represented and interpreted and to examine, on the other hand, the interaction of focus with topic as well as other grammatical properties and its impact on sentence structure and meaning. The relevant differences between Chinese and English will also be compared. A profound understanding of the mechanism underlying the operation of topic and focus in information packaging and partitioning in Chinese, a language that has by far the largest population of speakers of any single language, will not only enhance linguists’ knowledge of topic and focus as a universal property of human language, but also contribute significantly to natural language understanding and production in computational linguistics and machine translation.


Project number9041187
Grant typeGRF
Effective start/end date1/01/0716/09/10