From: Yahui Anita Huang <yhuangbsc.edu>
Subject: On the Form and Meaning of Chinese Bare Conditionals: Not just 'whatever'
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Institution: University of Texas at Austin
Program: Department of Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2010
Author: Yahui Anita Huang
Dissertation Title: On the Form and Meaning of Chinese Bare Conditionals: Not just 'whatever'
Subject Language(s): Chinese, Mandarin (cmn)
The syntactic and semantic treatment of Chinese Bare Conditionals is a
topic of much debate (Cheng and Huang 1996; Lin 1996; Chierchia 2000).
This dissertation investigates the nature of Chinese Bare Conditionals in
three aspects: quantification and modal implications as compared to English
free relatives with -ever, and pronoun occurrence. With regard to
quantification, I propose to treat the anteceding wh-phrase and its
anaphoric element (pronoun/wh-word) uniformly as a definite description
denoting a maximal plural entity similar to Jacobson (1995). This entity
can be an atomic entity resulting in a singular definite reading, or an
entity consisting of more than one atom deriving a universal-like reading.
Concerning modal implication, I propose to capture the agent's/speaker's
indifference reading of bare conditionals with von Fintel (2000).
Indifference reading in his analysis is interpreted against a
counterfactual modal base which predicts a causal link. His analysis is
needed for the interpretation of Chinese bare conditionals but may not be
applied directly to whatever, given that a causal link is necessarily
present in a bare conditional, but not required in an English
whatever-sentence. I argue that the use of a pronoun in a bare conditional
is not subject to a uniqueness and existence condition as claimed in Lin
(1996). Although bare conditionals typically contain two identical
wh-words, they may occur naturally with a pronoun that links bare
conditionals with other sentences into a piece of coherent discourse. This
account bears an important implication for the study of Chinese wh-phrases
and third person pronouns in being able to predict the existence of
anaphoric definite wh-phrases and bound-variable pronouns in the language.
It also improves on existing accounts of Chinese bare conditionals in
being able to capture the details of the form and meaning of this
construction. Chinese bare conditionals are structurally related to ruguo
'if'-conditionals and Hindi left-adjoined correlatives and their meaning is
similar to, and yet not quite the same as that of 'whatever'.
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