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The Semantics of Chinese Indefinite NPs: Reference & Quantification

Author: WangGuangCheng
Tutor: FangLi
School: Beijing Language and Culture University
Course: Linguistics and Applied Linguistics
Keywords: indefinite NPs bare NPs generic quantification eventuality
CLC: H136
Type: PhD thesis
Year: 2007
Downloads: 696
Quote: 3
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Abstract


The study object of this dissertation is the semantics of Chinese indefinite NPs, including their reference and quantification. Its goal is mainly to examine and explain the syntactic distribution and the semantic interpretation of Chinese indefinite NPs and the inter-relatedness between them. It will be based on the following theoretical hypothses: Discourse Representation Theory, Generalized Quantifier Theory, (Generalized) Mapping Hypothesis and Event Semantics.The dissertation is composed of 6 chapters. The first chapter is the introduction, including the delimitation and classification of Chinese Indefinte NPs, a brief illustration of the dissertation’s major viewpoints and theoretical backgrounds, and an introduction of the dissertation’s organization.Chapter Two is mainly about several pairs of categories related to Chinese Indefinte NPs, including referential/non-referential, identifiable/non-identifiable, specific/non-specific and generic/non-generic. It is noticed that the present definitions of all these categories are controvertial and the purpose of this chapter is only to choose one definition more generally accepted to serve the following discussion.Chapter Three exclusively talks about the semantics of Chines Bare NPs. It is argued that the semantics of Chines bare NPs can be considered as denoting either kind or property which respectively attributes to their usages as argument or predicates. The generic interpretation of Chines bare NPs mainly occurs in three types of generic sentences, kind reference sentences, characterizing statements and representative kind-referring sentences. The ultimate interpretation of bare NPs is determined by two factors, one is the property of predicates, and the other is their syntactic positions. As to individual-level predicats, their bare NP subjects tend to be generic and bare NP objects can be generic or non-specific; as to stage-level predicates, their bare NP subjects tend to be identifiable and objects can be non-identifiable. In addition to syntactic positions, focus can also influence the semantics of bare NPs. All of these factors can be explained by the (Generalized) Topic Universal Hypothesis that is put forward in this chapter.Chapter 4 is about the semantics of other Chinese Indefinte NPs besides bare NPs. The main conclusions include: First, referenc and quantification are the two components of the semantics of Chinese Indefinte NPs, which can be decisively determined by differentiating two types of sentences, the enventuality sentences and the non-eventuality sentences. Second, the well known view that Chinese subject and topic must be identifiable or specific is only true for NPs with weak determiners in eventuality sentences. Thirdly, the syntactic asymmetry of subject and object is the source of the semantic restriction of Chines subjects. Fourthly, the fact that different modal verbs affect the well-formedness of sentences differently can be more generally attributed to the distinction between eventuality sentences and non-eventuality sentences. Finally, as weak determiner NPs can occasionally be used as strong determiner NPs, they can also occur at the subject position of enventuality sentences. Under such circumstances, their semantics is both referential and quantificational.Chapter 5 aims to offer further evidence for the conclusions drawn in Chapter 4. It consists of two sections, one is the comprehensive exploration of the semantic restriction of Chinese indefinte NP subjects, and the other is about the co-occurrence regularity of Chinese indefinte NPs with‘DOU’(all) and‘YOU’(existence). It is argued that the well-formedness of sentences with indefinte NP subject is determined by whether the eventuality argument is bound. As to the co-occurrence regularity of Chinese indefinte NPs with‘DOU’(all) and‘YOU’(existence), it involves three cases: Strong determiner phrases must co-occur with‘DOU’, cannot be positioned after‘YOU’; weak determiner phrases cannot co-occur with‘DOU’, must be introduced by‘YOU’at the subject positions; As to other NPs that are neither typically strong nor typically weak, they can either co-occur with‘DOU’or with‘YOU’, but‘DOU’and‘YOU’cannot occur simultaneously.Chapter 6 is the concluding part, consisting of three parts, the major original achievements of this study, the problems unresolved hitherto, and the prospect of further exploration.

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CLC: > Language, writing > Chinese > Semantics,vocabulary, word meaning ( exegesis ) > Modern vocabulary
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