2009 Issues in the Semantics of Mandarin Questions, Ph.D. Dissertation, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY. [download pdf ]
This dissertation strives to explain certain long-standing issues in Mandarin
questions within a new framework, i.e. the Alternative Semantics theory, and also to
bring in hitherto unnoticed new data.
Part I of the dissertation examines argument wh-questions. Starting from
Tsai’s (1999) Lexical Courtesy Hypothesis, according to which wh-movement in
general should be avoided if possible, I present an analysis of Mandarin wh-in-situ
within the framework of Alternative Semantics (Rooth 1985, Shimoyama 2001) which
does not resort to LF movement or unselective binding. Furthermore I propose that the
scope marking of questions in this theory is achieved by focus intonation.
Experimental phonetic data are provided to support this important new claim.
apply this new theory to polarity, A-not-A and alternative questions in Mandarin,
showing that they are formed by syntactic specification of a set of alternatives on
different levels respectively. The Alternative Semantics analysis is further extended to
wh-existential and wh-universal constructions. I show that existential closure can be
applied either locally or non-locally as a consequence of the compositional semantics
in the wh-existential constructions. In the universal construction “mei…dou”
(“every…all”), the long-standing problem of double-distributivity is accounted for by
universal concord in the sense of Kratzer (2006)
Part II examines “how” and “why” questions using event semantics. Data
from Mandarin show that there is an event singularity presupposition in manner “how”
and causal “why” questions, and this presupposition leads to a singleton set when the
true answers are considered. This explains such cross-linguistic puzzles as the
distribution of the exhaustivity marker “all” in wh-questions and the lack of
quantificational variability effect in embedded manner and causal questions. I also
propose an analysis of verbal “how” questions in Mandarin (e.g. Yuehan zenme-le
Mali? literally “John how-ed Mary?”). The verbal “how” is treated as a ditransitive
verbal variable in the lexicon, and it can account for the three special constraints on
the use of such verbal “how” questions, i.e. the malefactivity reading, incompatibility
with negation, and lack of a ditransitive use.
I also propose a new typology of wh-questions based on the parameters of the
interpretational variability of wh-pronouns and scope marking strategies.
2002 Studies in the Intra-sentential Co-reference Rules of the 3rd person pronoun “ta” in Chinese. MA Thesis, Peking University, Beijing, China. [download pdf ]