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Title: Negation and aspect : a comparative study of Mandarin and Cantonese varieties
Author: Lam, Chit Yu
ISNI:       0000 0004 7961 9606
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2019
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This dissertation examines the interaction between standard negation and aspect in Chinese under two conditions: bare negation showing negation-situation type compatibility, and negation with overt aspectual marking. The comparative study of Beijing Mandarin, Taiwan Mandarin, Hong Kong Cantonese, and the previously unstudied Gaozhou Cantonese demonstrates that the aspectual sensitivity of negation is governed by more general structural properties than idiosyncratic aspectual selection requirements of the negators. In negative declaratives without aspectual marking (bare negatives), Chapters 2 shows that where a variety has more than one standard negator, the distribution of the negators mostly creates systematic semantic contrast instead of any grammaticality consequence: Mandarin méiyǒu, Hong Kong Cantonese mou5 and Gaozhou Cantonese mau5 consistently offer a situation non-existent reading, while Mandarin bù and Hong Kong Cantonese m4 always involve a modality reading (habitual or volitional). Based on the relative distribution of negation and different types of adverbs, Chapter 4 suggests that all standard negators in the four Chinese varieties are generated in the outermost specifier of vP. The uniformity in negator position challenges previous accounts that méiyǒu and mou5 are higher in Asp, and urges a rethinking of the nature of these negators. Following Croft's (1991) Negative-Existential Cycle and supported by corpus data from Taiwan Mandarin, the chapter demonstrates that méiyǒu, mou5 and mau5 are standard negators developed from the negative existential predicate (non-existence of entities) and have now extended their function to verbal negation (non-existence of situations). Therefore, méiyǒu and mou5 as negative-existential-cum-verbal-negators consist of negation and the existential quantifier, whereas, bù and m4 receive their modality interpretation by being the negative form of the generic operator (Gen) (Chierchia 1995). The compatibility between these two classes of negators and different situation types is accounted for by the presence/absence of a habituality feature ([Hab]) on V: the presence of [Hab] licenses Neg-Gen (i.e. bù or m4), and its absence licenses Neg- (i.e. méiyǒu or mou5). When overt aspectual marking is present, Chapter 3 shows that bù and m4 are incompatible with aspectual marking across the board, while méiyǒu, mou5 and mau5 are only compatible with experiential aspect; the incompatibility is found weaker with imperfective aspects. With a review of existing proposals for the negation-aspect compatibility, Chapter 5 argues that the sensitivity to aspect is stemmed from the exceptionally low position of the aspectual markers in V, hence the featural composition of the aspectual markers will determine their compatibility with negation. Precisely, the aspectual markers are argued to encode definiteness (a la Ramchand 2008a, b) and only indefinite aspects are compatible with negation involving méiyǒu, mou5 or mau5 since definite aspects impose existential presupposition on the predicates which clashes with the non-existence semantics of the negators. Bù and m4, on the other hand, are not compatible with any aspectual marking in standard negation, as the aspectual marker on V prohibits the presence of [Hab] feature which the generic operator in bù and m4 probes for. Therefore, the Chinese varieties display a typologically distinct type of definiteness encoding, where definiteness is not encoded by articles or case morphology in the nominal system, but realised in the verbal domain as aspectual distinctions. The dissertation, therefore, resolves the well-known Chinese negation puzzle with novel generalisations based on systematic, original comparative synchronic and diachronic data, which contribute important empirical and theoretical implications to Chinese linguistics and beyond, particularly regarding the clausal-nominal parallel.
Supervisor: Roberts, Ian ; Willis, David Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Standard negation ; Situation types ; Viewpoint aspects ; Negative-Existential Cycle ; Beijing Mandarin ; Taiwan Mandarin ; Hong Kong Cantonese ; Gaozhou Cantonese ; Cross-variety variations