Plurality and modification in Mandarin nominal phrases
Yang, Henrietta Shu-fen
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This dissertation investigates the internal constructions of Mandarin nominal phrases with a special attention on bare nouns and nominal phrases involving numerals and classifiers (full-fledged DP’s). I argue that three distinct syntactic structures are needed in order to accommodate three different kinds of nominal interpretations in Mandarin, namely concept-denoting, object-denoting that can be singular or plural, and object-denoting that must be singular or plural. Two aspects of the nominal domain are highlighted in this study: plurality and modification. In exploring plurality, I examine the following questions: (1) Why are objectdenoting bare nouns ambiguous in terms of the number information; (2) How is number information expressed linguistically in full-fledged DP’s; and (3) How do the abstract number features under the Number functional projection interact with other projections within the nominal domain? In addition to the plurality system in common nouns, this study also investigates the relationship between the syntactic construction and the semantic interpretations of plural pronouns. I argue that plural pronouns in Mandarin are syntactically complex and semantically compositional. Within the modification system, I examine the possessive constructions and pre-nominal adjectival modifiers. I argue that possessive phrases in Mandarin are of semantic type <e, t>. Moreover, I demonstrate that both possessor phrases and adjectival phrases can appear in the pre-N and pre-D positions and provide discussion as to how they interact with other functional projections within the nominal domain. In this study, the relationship between syntactic positions of possessor phrases and adjective phrases and their corresponding semantic interpretations is also examined. Furthermore, I investigate two seemingly related adjectival constructions, the so-called de-modification and de-less modification. I argue that de-less modifiers are not phrasal. They are subwords in the sense of Embick and Noyer (2001). I suggest that de-less elements and nouns form morphosyntactic words, which function as subconcept terms. Hence, they are not allowed to move out of the N head and appear in the pre-D position. In contrast, de-modifiers are phrasal and are allowed to appear in the pre-N or pre-D position.