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Title: The dynamic syntax of left and right dislocation : a study with special reference to Chinese
Author: Wu, Yicheng
ISNI:       0000 0004 2682 9212
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2005
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Within the theoretical framework of Kempson et al (2001), this thesis provides an in-depth exploration of the dislocation phenomenon, one of the principal characteristics of natural language syntax: a word or phrase appears in a position apparently inconsistent with the relations it holds with other elements in the structure. The thesis, essentially a case study for the theoretical approach, is empirically based on Chinese, a non-inflectional language where to a large extent word order constrains its * interpretation and defines its grammatical functions. Focusing on both the left and the right boundary of the Chinese clause, this study explores the complex, subtle interaction between syntax, semantics and pragmatics. Under the dynamic approach which takes the incremental left-to-right processing of linguistic forms to be a fundamental part of characterising the relation between syntactic structure and semantic interpretation, and also makes pragmatic inference a part of linguistic formalism, a parsimonious, straightforward explanation is provided through detailed analysis for a range of key grammatical constructions displaying periphery effects, previous analyses of which are sought in pure syntactic, semantic or pragmatic terms. This study demonstrates that with the dynamics of natural language encoded in linguistic formalisms, the grammatical machinery required to account for linguistic phenomena is massively simplified. The parsimonious, straightforward nature of my analysis is reflected in the economical use of technical entities throughout the study. The dynamic approach developed in the thesis does not involve a multiplicity of abstract, static notions but only two dynamic notions, underspecification (both syntactic and semantic) and pragmatic enrichment. In the first part of the study, I focus on the preverbal boundary and explore grammatical structures such as topic, passive and emphatic constructions. Using the two concepts of underspecification, that of final contribution to the propositional structure of the clause and of semantic content, and of the concept of LINK structure, I show that these constructions share the same underlying properties. Differences, particularly with respect to pragmatic interpretation, are shown to result from the grammatical expressions with which dislocated noun phrases are associated (if any). In the second part of the study, I use the same general approach to the postverbal boundary and explore grammatical constructions such as focus and background topic constructions which both are shown to display right-periphery effects structurally, although semantically the right-dislocated expressions clearly have different properties. Differences between the interpretation of postverbal dislocated expressions and those on the left periphery are shown to result directly from the context induced by the parsing of the verb. I argue on the basis of detailed analysis that a full account of these linguistic structures cannot be sought in only syntactic, semantic or pragmatic terms but should be grounded in a dynamic perspective that combines all three. Although I develop a parsing-based dynamic account of dislocation phenomenon in Chinese, implicit in it are some findings about the general properties of this language. Looked at from a descriptive viewpoint, the major findings of this study are as follows: (i) dislocation is commonly used in such a non-inflectional language, and is apparently motivated for fulfilling various grammatical (and discourse) functions; (ii) the extent to which syntax, semantics and pragmatics interact in the interpretation of dislocation structures is considerable; (iii) Chinese is indeed a topic-prominent language where topic is not only manifest in pure topic structure as has been widely assumed, but noticeable in other grammatical structures. This study not merely provides a novel analysis of a particular language from an interpretive viewpoint but also justifies the DS stance about linguistic knowledge. With special reference to a fascinating language like Chinese, the study shows that a full understanding of the nature of language and the knowledge of language cannot be achieved without a better understanding of the use of that language, which has been neglected in mainstream theories of language. The subtle interaction between various kinds of linguistic knowledge in the interpretive process of dislocation structures is a perfect reflection of what natural languages enable human beings to do. Viewed in this perspective, the thesis breaks new ground in analysing natural language through the use of concepts of underspecification and pragmatic enrichment.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available