A Semantic Study of henduo ‘many’ and henshao ‘few’ in Mandarin Chinese

Research output: Conference Papers (RGC: 31A, 31B, 32, 33)Abstractpeer-review

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Detail(s)

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages2
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2021

Conference

Title34th Paris Meeting on East Asian Linguistics (JLAO34)
LocationOnline
PlaceFrance
CityParis
Period7 - 9 July 2021

Abstract

It is well acknowledged that many and few can serve as an adjective or a determiner (both in the prenominal position), leading to an ambiguity between a modifier type and a quantifier type of expressions (see e.g. Bennett 1974, Westerståhl 1984, Löbner 1987). Partee (2004) further leads to the conclusion that many/few can be cardinal or proportional in reading, with the former as either an adjective or a determiner, and the latter a determiner only.
      For Chinese, equivalents to English many and few are considered to be henduo and henshao, and they are shown to demonstrate asymmetrical syntactic distributions, with different grammatical functions (see Chao 1968, Zhu 1989, Wang 1995, Qiu 1999). Along this line, we further argue that unlike English many and few, interpretations of henduo and henshao are not determined by a simple ambiguity between an attributive adjective and a determiner, but a diversification among an attributive adjective, a predicative adjective and an adverb, leading to its overwhelming prominence of cardinal reading over proportional reading.      This study aims to probe into the quantificational structure of henduo and henshao. Data have been collected from the CCL corpus, with targeted investigation conducted through questionnaires of sentence judgements. Preliminary results reveal the following points.
      Firstly, henduo and henshao is found to demonstrate diversification among serving as an attributive adjective (1a), a predicative adjective (1b) and an adverb (1c).

(1) a. Henduo/?henshao ren chi pingguo.
         many/few people eat apple
         ‘Many/Few people eat apple.’
     b. Ta chi de pingguo henduo/henshao.
         he eat DE apple many/few
         ‘The apple he ate are many/few.’
     c. Ta *henduo/henshao chi pingguo.
         he many/few eat apple
         Intended: ‘He often/seldom eats apple.’

      Secondly, both henduo and henshao can be modifiers but show a different realization in their readings. The cardinal reading is the dominate reading of henduo, which supports its being an attributive adjective. On the other hand, cardinal reading on a par with henduo is not possible in henshao (see (1a)), and modification of henshao is possible only under adverbial modification, giving the reading of English seldom (see (1c)). The contrast is not shown when both occur as predicative adjectives (see (1b)).
      Thirdly, as an adverb, proportional readings are restricted in henshao. However, our findings reveal that, as an attributive adjective, although proportional readings are also restricted in henduo, such a reading is possible when henduo is licensed by the topic feature of [Head, TopicP], as in (2).

(2) Henduo xuexiao lai-le jiazhang.
     many school come-PERF parent
     ‘There are many schools that parents came to.’

      Findings above suggest that Chinese henduo and henshao are not equivalents of English many and few. Henduo and henshao demonstrate diverse syntactic distributions among attributive adjective, predicative adjective and adverb, leading to its overwhelming prominence of cardinal reading over proportional reading. Moreover, proportional readings are possible with topic projection in henduo. This may lead to an implication that Chinese may have determiners, which at the very least, is true under such a case.

Bibliographic Note

Research Unit(s) information for this publication is provided by the author(s) concerned.

Citation Format(s)

A Semantic Study of henduo ‘many’ and henshao ‘few’ in Mandarin Chinese. / SUN, Yueming; LEE, Peppina Po-lun.

2021. Abstract from 34th Paris Meeting on East Asian Linguistics (JLAO34), Paris, France.

Research output: Conference Papers (RGC: 31A, 31B, 32, 33)Abstractpeer-review