Bi-verbal construction and Mandarin indirect passives : an information structure approach

雙動詞結構與漢語帶賓被動句 : 從資訊結構的角度

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

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  • Luosha BI


Awarding Institution
  • Haihua PAN (Supervisor)
Award date15 Jul 2015


This thesis reexamines and reanalyzes the derivational mechanism of Mandarin indirect passives with retained objects. Contrary to the previous assumption that Mandarin indirect passives do not comply with the familiar criteria of passivization, i.e., case absorption and NP promotion, this thesis motivates a unified raising analysis and extends the information structure analysis to Mandarin indirect passives. It is shown that the information structure approach is not only theoretically desirable but also feasible to the analysis of indirect passives as well as other constructions related to word reordering and information reconstructing. Indirect passives are characterized by having direct objects retained postverbally. It is well acknowledged that indirect passives widely exist in Mandarin, as well as other East Asian Languages, but are excluded from Western languages. Huang (1999) and Huang, Li & Li (2009) claim that this is because different from Western languages, the passivization in East Asian Languages involves both predication/control and movement operations. The existence of indirect passives is regarded as a good example to exemplify this assumption. However, in this thesis I argue that like other canonical passives, the accusative case is always suppressed in the Mandarin indirect passive with the embedded object rising to the subject position. This subject can either be mapped to the topic position as a derived topic constituent in DOC indirect passives, or mapped to the focus position in resultative indirect passives. All the mappings are supposed to occur at the information structure (IS). The major assumptions and contributions made in this thesis are summarized as follows. (i) This study extends the scope of indirect passive structures from the most frequently discussed types, i.e., possessive and adversative indirect passives, to the eleven possible indirect candidates, which are generally fallen into two groups, i.e., resultative and DOC indirect passives. I show that benefactive, malefactive and source indirect passives are derived from the resultative construction; while the directional indirect passives are from the double object construction. (ii) This thesis proposes that the underlying structures of DOC and resultative indirect passives are constructed within the bi-verbal framework, in which there are two verbs taking two objects individually. The basic structure of the DOC indirect passives is schematized as [V-NP1-X-NP2], in which the secondary predicate X may be referred to as the same verb as the matrix one, like in the material-type DOCs, hu zhi 'paste a piece of paper' and hu chuanghu 'paste a window', or as any grammaticalized categories which are able to assign (structural or inherent) cases. This assumption also well explains the symmetric passivization presented in DOC indirect passives. As for the resultative indirect passives, I argue in this paper that they are derived from the bi-verbal underlying structure as shown in [Cause… [NP1/NP2 [V1 [V2Beome-Adj NP1]]]]. In most cases, the two NPs are represented by the same entity with the same form and therefore, one of them will be deleted; however, occasionally they may be different as in creative-type indirect passives, bian liutiao 'weave willow stripes' and bian kuang 'weave a basket'. (iii) This paper examines two of the most important theories proposed in the bi-verbal framework, i.e., the applicative and the small clause theories. I argue that neither of them is applicable to the analysis of Mandarin (pseudo) DOCs and resultative constructions. (iv) I pursue a unified raising approach to the derivation of Mandarin DOC and resultative indirect passives. For the DOC indirect passives, the higher object is passivized and raised to the subject position; the lower object is thus retained behind. For the resultative indirect passives, the only object in the resultative construction (after deletion) is passivized as the subject. When a base generated topic is introduced, the focus mapping of the subject can be triggered and the subject is mapped to the right of the sentence, as the "retained" object. (v) This study sheds light on the nature of information structure. I argue that the focus mapping occurs at an independent level, i.e., information structure (IS), which is established after the surface structure (or spell out) but before the LF. For all the indirect passives in Mandarin, their pre-bei NPs are uniformly mapped to the topic position and postverbal objects are located at the information focus position at IS. The study of Mandarin indirect passives offers important evidence for the independent nature of information structure. In a shell nut, I assume that all the Mandarin passives are "direct" passives having their objects to move to the subject positions. The so-called "indirect" passives are the products for the information packaging at the information structure. The fact that Western languages lack indirect passives well presents the different ways in focus marking among languages. For instance, the focus marking in English is exclusively prosodic-oriented. It is probable that when the direct passive sentence enters the IS, the stress or the accent identification will be assigned to one particular element; when this element enters the PF, it will be recoginized and receives the stress as the information focus. Therefore, no overt movement is observed.

    Research areas

  • Passive voice, Chinese language, Verbals