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date: 23 February 2017

Chinese Semantics

This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Linguistics. Please check back later for the full article.

Cross-linguistic data can add new insights to the development of semantic theories or even induce the shift of the research paradigm. The major topics in semantic studies, such as quantification, polarity items, donkey anaphora and binding principles, negation, indexicals, tense and aspects, and eventuality, are all discussed by semanticists who work on the Chinese languages. The issues of particular interest include and are not limited to:

1. The categorization and quantificational mapping strategies of Chinese quantifier expressions (i.e., whether the behaviors of Chinese quantifier expressions fit into the dichotomy of A-Quantification and D-quantification).

2. The multiple uses of quantifier expressions (e.g, dou) and their implication for the inter-relation of semantic concepts like distributivity, scalarity, exclusiveness, exhaustivity, maximality, etc.

3. The interaction among universal adverbials and between universal adverbials and various types of noun phrases, which poses a challenge to the Principle of Compositionality.

4. The non-interrogative uses of wh- phrases in Chinese and their influence on the theories of polarity items, free choice items, and epistemic indefinites.

5. How are the concepts of E-type pronouns and D-type pronouns manifested in the Chinese languages, and do such pronoun interpretations correspond to specific sentence types?

6. What devices does Chinese adopt to locate time (i.e., does the tense interpretation corresponds to certain syntactic projections or is it solely determined by semantic information and pragmatic reasoning).

7. How can the interpretation of Chinese aspect markers be captured by event structures, possible-world semantics, and quantification.

8. How can the long-distance binding of Chinese ziji ‘self’ and the blocking effect by first and second person pronouns be accounted for by the existing theories of beliefs, attitude reports, and logophoricity?

9. The distribution of various negation markers and their correspondence with the semantic properties of predicates with which they are combined.

10. Whether Chinese topic-comment structures are constrained by both semantic and pragmatic factors or syntactic factors only.