On the syntax-semantics interface of henduo and henshao in Mandarin Chinese

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

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Detail(s)

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - May 2022

Conference

Title28th Annual Conference of the International Association of Chinese Linguistics (IACL-28)
LocationOnline
PlaceHong Kong
Period20 - 22 May 2022

Abstract

As early as Chao (1968), Chinese henduo and henshao are shown to demonstrate asymmetrical syntactic distributions, with different grammatical functions (see Zhu 1989, Wang 1995, Qiu 1999). Regarding the readings of henduo and henshao, the two are generally considered to be equivalents to English many and few. 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. By means of targeted investigation via sentence judgement tasks, we argue that, unlike 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 natural tendency to cardinal readings and proportional readings. Preliminary analysis reveals 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 people.’                 
     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/rarely eats apple.’
    
Secondly, diversification in syntactic distributions leads to natural quantificational tendencies of henduo and henshao. Cardinal readings are the dominant readings of henduo, while the restricted preference of proportional readings is possible when [henduo + NP] is licensed by the topic feature of [Head, TopicP], as in (2), where henduo is of a quantifier type and [henduo + NP] forms a quantifier phrase (QP) and a tripartite structure (Kamp 1981, Heim 1982, Partee 1995) for quantificational reading is triggered with henduo being the operator. While for henshao, the preference of the proportional reading is possible, for it mainly functions as the adverb and the predicative adjective.

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

Based on findings above, the syntax-semantics mapping of henduo and henshao can be generalized as follows. For henduo, the dominant cardinal readings support its primary function as an attributive adjective of modifier type rather than quantifier type. The restricted preference of proportional readings is possible with the topic projection in henduo and when henduo serves as the predicative adjective. For henshao, as an adverb, it prefers proportional readings. Dominant cardinal readings on a par with henduo is not possible in henshao, for its restricted function of being the attributive adjective, and modification of henshao is possible only under adverbial modification, giving the reading of English rarely. This may lead to an implication that Chinese may have determiners, as shown in the restricted proportional readings.

Bibliographic Note

Information for this record is supplemented by the author(s) concerned.

Citation Format(s)

On the syntax-semantics interface of henduo and henshao in Mandarin Chinese. / SUN, Yueming; LEE, Peppina Po‐Lun.

2022. Abstract from 28th Annual Conference of the International Association of Chinese Linguistics (IACL-28), Hong Kong.

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