Reference system in modern Mandarin Chinese

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journal

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)45–73
Journal / PublicationAustralian Journal of Linguistics
Issue number1
Online published3 Jan 2020
Publication statusPublished - 2020


The present study is an attempt at a comprehensive presentation of various functions in the reference system of Mandarin Chinese. The study demonstrates that the reference system of Mandarin consists of a finite number of functions, some of which have not been identified as such, namely: absence of instructions to identify the referent, marked by bare nouns (sometimes analyzed as ‘indetermined’); presentation of an entity as not requiring identification (sometimes wrongly analyzed as‘indefinite’); co- reference with the last coded participant in the event or a participant in the speech situation (not identified as such in the literature so far); obviative reference with respect to the last coded participant in the event (not identified as such in the previous literature); a referent that is located within the space and time of the environment of speech; and a referent within the domain of speech. The importance of this study lies in demonstrating that the analysis of forms and functions in a given language, as opposed to checking if and how categories observed in other languages are coded, allows for the discovery of categories that are encoded in the grammatical system and whose existence explains the forms of utterances in the language.

Research Area(s)

  • Chinese, reference system, bare nouns, proximate, obviative, definite, indefinite

Bibliographic Note

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