On the semantics of classifier reduplication in Cantonese

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)701–743
Number of pages43
Journal / PublicationJournal of Linguistics
Issue number4
Online published13 Apr 2020
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2020


This paper studies prenominal reduplicative classifier in Cantonese, which has been argued to be a distributive quantifier on a par with English every/each and Mandarin mei 'every', and a plural classifier giving the 'many' reading. The analysis I propose draws heavily on ideas introduced in the cover theory proposed by Schwarzschild (1996) and Brisson (1998, 2003), and ideas introduced by Partee (2004) and others on quantifying determiner many. I argue that prenominal reduplicative classifier is a quantifying determiner which is ambiguous between a quantifier type and a modifier type. When it occurs with the distributive quantifier dou1 'all', it serves as a modifier, regulating the domain of dou1-quantification by imposing a maximizing effect on the nominal it modifies (see e.g. Link 1983; Gillon 1987; Schwarzschild 1996; Brisson 1998, 2003). Without the presence of a distributive quantifier, prenominal reduplicative classifier serves either as a modifier or as a quantifier, giving its NP a weak cardinal reading or a strong proportional reading, respectively. The proposed analysis implies that domain restriction in Chinese is overtly realized in grammatical form by means of the reduplicative classifier (when combined with a distributive quantifier) and that Chinese may have determiners, which is at least true in Cantonese.

Research Area(s)

  • 'many' readings, Cantonese, classifier reduplication, distributive quantifiers, domain restriction, plurality covers, quantifying determiner