LINGUIST List 12.2441

Tue Oct 2 2001

Qs: Chinese/Focus/Cleft, Yes-No Questions/Chinese

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Directory

  1. Liang Chen, focus/cleft construction in Chinese
  2. Robert Hagen, Yes-No questions in Chinese and German

Message 1: focus/cleft construction in Chinese

Date: Mon, 1 Oct 2001 11:15:25 -0700 (PDT)
From: Liang Chen <brighterchenyahoo.com>
Subject: focus/cleft construction in Chinese

Dear colleagues,
I have some questions regarding Chinese focus/cleft
constructions, which have the following properties. 

Firstly, every preverbal constituent can be focused by
placing the focus marker "shi" immediately before it.
(the focused element in bracket)
1) SHI [Zhangsan] da-de Lisi. (subject focus)
 be beat-DE 
 'It is Zhangsan who beat Lisi"
2) Zhangsan SHI [(zai)zuotian]/[zai xuexiao] da-DE
Lisi. (adjunct focus)
 Zhangsan be at yesterday/ at school beat-DE Lisi
 'It is yesterday/at school that Zhangsan beat
Lisi.'

Moreover, in (1) and (2) above, the element 'de' can
alternate with the perfective aspect marker 'le' in
Chinese. Therefore, (1) and (2) are identical to (3)
and (4) respectively.

3) SHI [Zhangsan] da-le Lisi. (subject focus)
 be beat-Asp 
 'It is Zhangsan who beat Lisi"
4) Zhangsan SHI [(zai)zuotian]/[zai xuexiao] da-le
Lisi. (adjunct focus)
 Zhangsan be at yesterday/ at school beat-Asp
Lisi
 'It is yesterday/at school that Zhangsan beat
Lisi.'

Interestingly, the element 'de' can also be placed
after the direct object. Again, (1) and (2) are
semantically identical to (5) and (6) respectively.

5) SHI [Zhangsan] da Lisi de. (subject focus)
 be beat Lisi DE 
 'It is Zhangsan who beat Lisi"
2) Zhangsan SHI [(zai)zuotian]/[zai xuexiao] da Lisi
de. (adjunct focus)
 Zhangsan be at yesterday/ at school beat Lisi DE
 'It is yesterday/at school that Zhangsan beat
Lisi.'

Second, the focus of an object is special in that we
cannot simply place the focus marker before it.
Instead, we need to use the so-called pseudo-clefts.
So the constrast below.

7) * Zhangsan da-le SHI Lisi.
 Zhangsan beat-Asp be Lisi
8) * Zhangsan da SHI Lisi de.
 Zhangsan beat be Lisi DE
 intended "It is Lisi who Zhangsan beat."
9) Zhangsan da-de SHI Lisi.
 Zhangsan beat-nominalizer be Lisi
 'It is Lisi who Zhangsan beat.'

Third, the focus marker can immediately precede a
verbal element, creating different types of focus. 
Note the difference between (10) and (12).

10) Zhangsan SHI da-de Lisi.
 Zhangsan be beat-DE Lisi.
 'It is Lisi that Zhangsan beat.'
11)Zhangsan SHI da Lisi de. (equative sentence?)
 Zhangsan be beat Lisi DE.
 'zhangsan is the person who beat Lisi.'
12) Zhangsan SHI da-le Lisi.
 Zhangsan be beat-Asp Lisi.
 'It is the case that Zhangsan beat Lisi.'

My questions are:

a) Any other languages without expletive 'it' show
similar pattern regarding the placement of the focus
marker? I suspect there is a kind of correlation
between the absence/existence of expletive 'it' and
the formation of 'cleft' sentences.
b) I suspect that the above focus constructions are
not the English equivalent of "it is ... that..."
construction. Rather all the focus types are best
analysed as equative sentences with a free relative as
subject. 
c) Would you please provide me with related literature
on the analysis of free relatives and cleft/pseudo
cleft constructions? 

All comments are welcome. If there are enough
interest, I will certainly post a summary.

Thank for your time.


Liang Chen 
Department of Linguistics
University of Connecticut
Storrs, CT 06269-1145




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Message 2: Yes-No questions in Chinese and German

Date: 3 Oct 2001 03:35:02 -0000
From: Robert Hagen <hagenmailberlin.net>
Subject: Yes-No questions in Chinese and German


I'm working on a PhD thesis in psycholinguistics about the linguistic
relativity of conceptualisation processes during speech production. My
research focuses on a comparison of the production of Yes/No-questions
in German and Chinese. Does anybody know which conditions obtain for
a speaker of Chinese to use the periphrastic form of the
Yes/No-question (with =BBSHI BU SHI=AB at the beginning), and roughly
how often (in percent) it is used? Do you know furthermore
publications especially concerned with the Chinese periphrastic
Yes/No- question?
 I will send you a summary of the results of my
investigation in return as soon as I have some..
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