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UMass Amherst LINGUIST 310 - Lecture 12- Mandarin Possessives, Demonstratives, and Definiteness

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LING 310 The Structure of Meaning, Lecture 12 Barbara H. Partee, April 3, 2006 NZ12 Mandarin possessives.doc 1Lecture 12: Mandarin Possessives, Demonstratives, and Definiteness1 0. Preliminary: Definiteness .........................................................................................................................................1 1. A translation puzzle...................................................................................................................................................2 2. Definites without uniqueness/maximality presupposition ........................................................................................5 3. Combinations of demonstrative and possessive .......................................................................................................8 4. Implications for the ingredients of definiteness......................................................................................................11 References ...................................................................................................................................................................12 0. Preliminary: Definiteness What is definiteness? We will investigate that question as we proceed. (0.1) Definite vs. indefinite Definites: uniqueness and/or exhaustivity; familiarity and/or inferrability (a) The horse ran away. Presupposition: There is one and only one horse in the given domain of discourse. The horse is familiar: speaker presupposes that hearer can pick out the horse. (b) The three horses ran away. Presupposition: There are just three horses in the given domain of discourse. The horses are familiar: speaker presupposes that hearer can pick out the horses. (c) Definites make good topics: The second example I didn’t like very much. *An example about possessives I didn’t like very much. (d) Definites don’t go well in existential sentences: There was a/*the beautiful black horse in one of the pastures. Indefinites: opposite properties. Not presupposed to be unique, exhaustive, familiar. Don’t make good topics. Do go well in existential sentences. Normally should be “new” in the discourse: introduce with an indefinite, then continue with anaphoric definite. A cat and a dog came into the house. The cat did not appear to be afraid of the dog. (0.2) Specific vs. non-specific A distinction usually drawn among indefinites. Vague, possibly more pragmatic than semantic. Specific: often said “speaker has a particular referent in mind, but does not presuppose that it’s familiar to the hearer.” I was talking to a friend of mine last night. Non-specific: “no particular referent intended” Take an apple. Bring a friend. Ambiguous – maybe +/- specific, maybe a matter of scope: John wants to marry an American. (specific: … She lives in Chicago. non-specific: …. so he can become a citizen.) But there are debates about these distinctions, and they are often particularly unclear cross-linguistically. Terminology is not entirely settled, and there are competing semantic and/or pragmatic characterizations, and there are obviously finer-grained distinctions to be made. Task for future research: identify the semantic and pragmatic ingredients of definiteness/specificity and find out how they are “packaged” in different languages, both in explicit determiners and implicitly in various constructions. 1 This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grants Nos. BCS-9905748 and BCS-0418311 to Barbara H. Partee and Vladimir Borschev. I am grateful to Henrietta Yang for bringing the topic discussed here to my attention, for all of the examples (from the Dec 2004 draft of her dissertation in progress) and for much useful discussion, and to Jo-wang Lin, Ji-Yung Kim, and Gregory Ward for helpful comments on a draft of the paper. The paper is dedicated with affection and great respect to Larry Horn, who even when he was my student was way ahead of me in pragmatic sophistication and helped make me aware of the importance of considering semantic and pragmatic issues together.LING 310 The Structure of Meaning, Lecture 12 Barbara H. Partee, April 3, 2006 NZ12 Mandarin possessives.doc 21. A translation puzzle. We begin with some difficulties in trying to capture in English a range of contrasting examples of possessive phrases in Mandarin. From there we will be led to re-examine the interpretation of definiteness in English and more generally. Yang (2004) observes that in Mandarin, an initial possessor phrase (PossessorP) may be followed by a bare noun as in (1), by a possessee phrase that can be headed by a numeral and classifier, as in (2), or by a demonstrative, [Dem + (Numeral) + CL + N] as in (3). (In all the examples in this section, we begin with Yang’s own initial glosses and translations2. The interpretation of the examples will be probed after they have been presented.) “High Possessor Phrase” Examples (1) Bare Noun: Possessor DE + [N] Zhangsan de [maoxianyi] Zhangsan DEPoss sweater ‘Zhangsan’s sweater(s)’ (2) Possessor DE + [Numeral + CL + N] Zhangsan de [ san jian maoxianyi] Zhangsan DEPoss three CL sweater ‘Zhangsan’s three sweaters’ (3) Possessor DE + [Dem + (Numeral) + CL + N] a. Zhangsan de [ na jian maoxianyi] Zhangsan DEPoss that CL sweater lit. ‘Zhangsan’s that sweater’ (* in English) b. Zhangsan de [ na san jian maoxianyi] Zhangsan DEPoss that three CL sweater ‘lit. Zhangsan’s those three sweaters’ (* in English) In examples (4-7), she demonstrates the possibility of the PossessorP attaching ‘low’, immediately before the noun. “Low Possessor Phrase” Examples (4) [CL + [Possessor DE] + N] you [ jian [Zhangsan de] maoxianyi] zai jiaoshi li have CL Zhangsan DEPoss sweater at classroom in ‘There is one of Zhangsan’s sweaters in the classroom.’ (5) [Numeral + CL + [Possessor DE] + N] you [ san jian [ Zhangsan de] maoxianyi] zai zhuo shang have three CL Zhangsan DEPoss sweater at table top ‘There are three sweaters of Zhangsan’s on the table.’ (6) [Dem + CL + [Possessor DE] + N] [na jian [ Zhangsan de ] maoxianyi] hen piaoliang that CL Zhangsan DEPoss sweater very pretty ‘That sweater of


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