LINGUIST List 29.3045

Mon Jul 30 2018

Calls: Chinese, Mandarin, Sino-Tibetan; Pragmatics, Psycholinguistics, Semantics/China

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Date: 29-Jul-2018
From: Mingya Liu <>
Subject: Counterfactuals in Chinese Languages
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Full Title: Counterfactuals in Chinese Languages

Date: 09-Jun-2019 - 14-Jun-2019
Location: Hong Kong, China
Contact Person: Mingya Liu
Meeting Email: < click here to access email >

Linguistic Field(s): Pragmatics; Psycholinguistics; Semantics

Subject Language(s): Chinese, Mandarin

Language Family(ies): Sino-Tibetan

Call Deadline: 15-Oct-2018

Meeting Description:

Counterfactuals in Chinese Languages
(Panel for the 16th International Pragmatics Association Conference, 9-14 June 2019)

Co-organised by:
- Jiang Yan (SOAS University of London, the U.K.)
- Mingya Liu (Institute of Cognitive Science, Osnabrück University, Germany)

Counterfactuals are a topic key to the understanding of language and thought. In the earlier literature (e.g. Bloom 1981), it was claimed that Mandarin Chinese lacked grammatical means of counterfactuals and thus speakers of Mandarin were less capable of counterfactual thinking. This aroused mixed responses in experimental works such as Au (1983/1984) as well as in linguistic works (Wu 1994, Feng and Yi 2006, Jiang 2000/2014, Jing-Schmidt 2017) that documented Mandarin counterfactual expressions. However, a systemic description of the distributional, syntactic, semantic and pragmatic properties of these expressions is still lacking. Formal accounts of the identified counterfactual expressions only focus on a small range of related data (cf. Hsu 2014, Ippolito and Su 2014). Furthermore, most of the studies focus on Mandarin Chinese in comparison to for example, English - the other Chinese languages and the comparison of them with languages other than English have been largely neglected, whereas these are crucial in making any claim about cross-linguistic and cross-cultural differences in counterfactual thinking.

Selected references:
Au, T. K. (1983). Chinese and English counterfactuals: The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis revisited. Cognition 15, 155-187.
Au, T. K. (1984). Counterfactuals: In reply to Alfred Bloom. Cognition 17, 289-302.
Bloom, A. H. (1981). The Linguistic Shaping of Thought: A Study in the Impact of Language on Thinking in China and the West. Hillsdale. Erlbaum Associates.
Feng, G. and L. Yi. (2006). What if Chinese had linguistic markers for counterfactual conditionals? Language and thought revisited. Conference paper of the 28th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society.
Hsu, C. (2014). Semantic-based mental representation of Chinese counterfactuals: Evidence from a psycholinguistic study of yaobushi. Language and Linguistics 15(3): 391-410.
Ippolito, M. and J. Su. (2014). Counterfactuals, negation and polarity. In L. Crnĭc and U. Sauerland (Eds.), The Art and Craft of Semantics: A Festschrift for Irene Heim, 225-243. Cambridge: MITWPL.
Jiang, Y. (2000). Counterfactual interpretations of Chinese conditionals. [Studies and Explorations on Syntax (Chinese)] 10, 257-279.
Jiang, Y. (2014). On the lexical meaning of conditional connectives in Chinese. In X. Su and T. He (Eds.): CLSW 2014, LNAI 8922, 43-54.
Jing-Schmidt, Zhuo. 2017. What are they good for? A constructionist account of counterfactuals in ordinary Chinese. Journal of Pragmatics 113: 30-52.
Wu, S. H. 1994. ''If Triangles Were Circles,...''- 'A Study of Counterfactuals in Chinese and in English'. Taipei: The Crane Publishing Co., Ltd.

Call for Papers:

The proposed workshop aims at identifying the form and meaning of counterfactual expressions (e.g. counterfactual optatives such as ''If only I were rich!'' in English, counterfactual conditionals - ''If I were rich, I would buy an iPhone.'') in Chinese languages including and beyond Mandarin and the formal modeling thereof. We welcome contributions that take a pragmatic and/or experimental-pragmatic perspective as well as those taking cross-cultural, evolutionary, developmental, psychological perspectives that will shed light on the understanding of counterfactual thinking in general. Contributions focusing on non-Chinese languages should relate to aspects of Chinese languages. All approaches (e.g. descriptive, formal, experimental, computational linguistic) are welcome as long as they present relevant data or insightful analyses that address well-formulated research questions.

We cordially invite abstract submissions (min. 250 and max. 500 words) to be considered for oral (30-minute lecture) or poster presentations by 15 October 2018 via the IPrA2019 conference site: as well as via email to both organizers:
Mingya Liu ( and Yan Jiang (

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact the panel co-organizers any time.

Page Updated: 30-Jul-2018