Toward a Theory of Mandarin Quantification

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Toward a Theory of Mandarin Quantification

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Title: Toward a Theory of Mandarin Quantification
Author: Tsai, Cheng-Yu
Citation: Tsai, Cheng-Yu. 2015. Toward a Theory of Mandarin Quantification. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
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Abstract: The goal of this dissertation is to show that certain puzzles in the syntax and semantics of Mandarin quantification can be explained from the perspective of Hamblin semantics. Following Kratzer and Shimoyama (2002), it is proposed that certain Mandarin quantificational expressions (including wh-phrases, numeral phrases, and strong quantificational phrases) denote sets of individual alternatives. They expand to sets of propositions in a pointwise manner and are selected by propositional operators. The distribution and interpretation of Mandarin quantificational expressions are constrained by the way alternatives interact with associated operators.

Chapter 1 illustrates a number of issues in the behavior of Mandarin existential wh-phrases and numeral phrases, which cannot be easily explained by previous accounts. Chapter 2 investigates the properties of three logical operators haishi, huoshi and haiyou, which provide the initial motivation for a Hamblin-style approach to the system of Mandarin quantification. It is argued that these three operators make a case for reading off Hamblin alternatives directly from the clausal syntax, and that, based on evidence from morphology and existential construal, wh-phrases in Mandarin pattern together with haishi-disjunctions and thus should receive a uniform semantic treatment.

All types of quantificational expressions discussed in the first two chapters interact with the preverbal particle dou in one way or another, and thus this element plays a special role in Mandarin quantification. Chapter 3 critically reviews three influential theories on dou: Shyu’s (1995) focus-based theory, Lin’s (1996) distributivity-based theory, and Giannakidou and Cheng’s (2006) maximality-based theory. Chapter 4 is devoted to a novel proposal on the syntax and semantics of dou, where it is argued that syntactically dou is a modal head that agrees with a universal quantifier that collects alternatives introduced by the quantificational phrase to its left, and semantically provides existential quantification over possible worlds. It is shown that this proposal allows for a uniform account of dou across different d¯ou-constructions, per the Hamblin-style analysis of quantificational phrases across-the-board.

Finally, Chapter 5 reexamines the interpretations of existential wh-phrases and argues that in the few cases discussed the existential reading comes from not the c-commanding operator in the surface structure but from an invisible operator that collects alternatives. This operator is introduced into the syntax via agreement with the preverbal particle jiu, which is a related element to dou and is overt in some of the cases at hand but not in others. Further consequences of the present approach to the behavior of NumPs and strong quantifier phrases are also discussed.
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