LINGUIST List 12.897

Thu Mar 29 2001

Disc: Review of Packard

Editor for this issue: Karen Milligan <>


  1. Richard Sproat, Re: 12.844 Author's response/Review of Packard

Message 1: Re: 12.844 Author's response/Review of Packard

Date: Thu, 29 Mar 2001 11:06:30 -0500
From: Richard Sproat <>
Subject: Re: 12.844 Author's response/Review of Packard

 Although there are a significant number of exceptions (which the
 language tends to treat exceptionally), there is little grammatical
 motivation for saying the head is on the right in a two-syllable
 Mandarin verb, and plenty of motivation for saying it is on the
 left. For example (1) resultative verbs 'inflect' on the left (eg,
 zuo-wan � zuode-wan (2) A-not-A question inflection 'inflects' on
 the left (xihuan � xi-bu-xihuan (3) aspect marking occurs on the
 left, even when the left member is a verbalized nominal element (eg,
 qiangbi gun-kill 'to execute by gunfire' � qiang-le-by"
 gun-ASP-kill 'to have executed by gunfire'; or even a novel
 code-switching example I heard a couple of days ago: good-le bye 'to
 have said good-bye')y"20

Since Jerry raises this point explicitly in this forum, it is worth
noting that (2) above --- the relevance of A-not-A questions to
headedness --- is by no means clear. This is one issue in a
decade-long debate between Jerry, and Chilin Shih and me. 

The question is whether in constructions like "xi-bu-xihuan", the
correct statement is that you duplicate the head (as Jerry contends)
or merely that you duplicate the first syllable, as we argued in
Sproat and Shih (1993). One piece of evidence for the latter was that
in code-switching, Mandarin speakers readily produce examples like
"sup-bu-supply", where there seems to be no motivation for saying that
the "sup" fragment of "supply" is a head. Indeed, unless I'm mistaken,
other tests for headedness such as (3) fail here: one doesn't get
aspectual marking on the "sup" bit: *"sup-le-ply".

One of the objections Jerry has about "sup-bu-supply" is that one
can't really evaluate such examples outside the context of a coherent
theory of codeswitching. While I would agree in principle with that
objection, one needs to ask whether any reasonable theory of
codeswitching would cause Mandarin speakers to assign head status to
the first syllable of what, for all intents and purposes, are
monomorphemic English verbs; but to do so in a way that would only
work for A-not-A questions, not for aspectual marking.

Sproat, Richard; and Shih, Chilin. 1993. Why Mandarin
morphology is not stratum-ordered. Yearbook of
Morphology. 185-217.

Richard Sproat Human/Computer Interaction Research AT&T Labs -- Research, Shannon Laboratory
Tel: +1-973-360-8490 180 Park Avenue, Room B207, P.O.Box 971
Fax: +1-973-360-8809 Florham Park, NJ 07932-0000
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