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Cycle conférences Dylan Wei-Tien Tsai(National Tsing Hua University)

  • Bare Quantity Construction in Mandarin Chinese and the Typology of Modals
    Mercredi 21 janvier, 15h-17h, Grands Moulins, aile C, salle 681C (GM)


    It has been proposed in the literature that Chinese is a mood-prominent language, where there is no morphological tense, and the mood/modal category is so prominent that it may remain silent throughout linguistic computation. A suggestive analogy can be found in the correlation between the topic prominence and the presence of pro-drop and null topic in Chinese (cf. Huang 1984, 1989). In this paper, we would like to pursue this line of thinking further by investigating the bare quantity construction, where there is no modal or aspect marker, and a certain notion of quantity is in play (cf. Li 1998 and Lu 2004). Here we entertain the possibility that there is an implicit modal involved in its syntactic arrangement and semantic interpretation, which is virtually identical to its overt counterpart, expressing capacity modality (cf. Tsai 2001). Another piece of argument comes from implicit modality construals in subjunctive complements, outer wh-adveribals, as well as non-canonical interrogative constructions. What is expressed by those wh-elements is equivalent to negative epistemic modality (cf. Shao 1996; Tsai 2011).


  • A Case of V2 in Chinese
    Mercredi 28 janvier, 15h-17h, Grands Moulins, aile C, salle 681C (GM)


    In this paper, we put forth the claim that peripheral features play an important role in this endeavor, which can be checked by either external Merge or internal Merge (i.e., Move) according to the parameter-settings of individual languages. Along this line, topic prominence can be regarded as the result of peripheral feature checking, and the null topic hypothesis à la Huang (1984) is reinvented as a null operator merger to fulfill interface economy in the left periphery. In this regard, Chinese provides substantial evidence from obligatory topicalization in outer affective, evaluative, and refutory wh-constructions where a D(efiniteness)-operator plays the central role of licensing relevant construals, as well as pro-drop and bare nominal interpretation in general. In this light, we may well compare Chinese obligatory topicalization to Germanic verb-second (V2), as well as English negative inversion, all being manifestation of the strong uniformity. Topic prominence, is reinvented in this new light: The null topic operator can be regarded as the quantifier part of a definite argument, and a Chinese topic is either an XP in the Spec-head relation with Top, or a discontinuous DP consisting of a peripheral D-operator and an in-situ nominal. This leads us to the conclusion that as far as the left periphery is concerned, there is a conspiracy between syntax, semantics, and pragmatics through either Agree or Move to ensure the success of sentence formation. This is actually a welcome result from the viewpoint of the cartographic approach, because we can easily implement this insight by encoding relevant restrictions with various functional projections in the complementizer layer.


  • Inner vs. Outer A-not-A Questions
    Mercredi 11 février, 15h-17h, Grands Moulins, aile C, salle 681C (GM)


    This paper distinguishes two types of A-not-A questions in Mandarin according to their distributions and interpretations: One is triggered by an outer A-not-A morpheme hosted by an assertion projection in the left periphery; the other is licensed by an inner A-not-A morpheme situated on the edge of vP. This distinction is of particular interest in the context of the cartographic approach advocated by Rizzi (1997) and Cinque (1999), under which we propose a novel way to separate the two constructions in terms of their relation to a variety of adverbials: For instance, inner A-not-A is typically blocked by frequency/manner adverbials, while its outer counterpart, being much higher and discourse-oriented, is subject to no such blocking. More specifically, we analyze outer A-not-A as the head of AstP (assertion phrase), which is sandwiched between IntP (interrogative phrase) and EviP (evidential phrase), whereas inner A-not-A is taken to be part of the vP periphery in the spirit of Ernst (1994) and Law (2006). Under this analysis, A-not-A questions are triggered by a cluster of a strong uninterpretable V feature and an interpretable Q feature: inner A-not-A is associated with the head of vP, whereas outer A-not-A is associated with the head of AstP in the left periphery. More specifically, the strong [uV] feature is checked off by attracting the closest verbal head, thereby assuming the A-not-A form. At LF, the [iQ] feature is further adjoined to Int head to check off the weak uninterpretable Q feature in Int (Chomsky 2000, among others). One piece of evidence for this minimalist/cartographic analysis comes from the fact that light verbs and certain manner adverbs may optionally undergo inner A-not-A construals. We have built a fine-grained cartographic analysis of the two types of A-not-A questions based on their correspondences with modals, adverbials and light verbs, as well as their height of interpretation. This move in turn accounts for the fact that only outer A-not-A is speaker-oriented and infelicitous in an out-of-blue context.

Les trois conférences seront données en anglais

Accès : métro 14/bus 62 : Bibliothèque F.M. ou Tramway 3 : Avenue de France

Université Paris Diderot- Paris 7,
Bâtiment Grands Moulins, aile C
5 rue Thomas Mann 75013 Paris

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