'Modification and reference in the Chinese nominal' investigates the
encoding of referential properties in the Chinese nominal. This study
argues that even though Chinese does not have articles, the encoding of
referential properties can still be detected by looking at modified noun
phrases. This study proposes a theory for the encoding of specificity and
definiteness in the Chinese nominal based on Cantonese, Mandarin and
By manipulating the positions of modifiers, it is shown that in Chinese,
some structure to the left of the Numeral Phrase is responsible for the
encoding of specificity, an observation that is obscured in unmodified noun
phrases. This motivates the existence of a projection called the
Specificity Phrase in Chinese. The Specificity Phrase is present in all
specific noun phrases but absent in non-specific ones. The tie between
specificity and definiteness is captured by an 'agree' relation between the
Specificity Phrase and the Classifier Phrase. The latter is where
definiteness is encoded. The interplay between the two projections
determines the overall referential properties of a noun phrase.
Modifiers in Chinese come in two types. They appear either bare or with a
modification marker element. The two types of modifiers interact
differently with the referential property of the noun phrase and deserve
different structural status. This study argues that bare modifiers are
specifiers and marker modifiers are adjuncts, motivated by their distinct
distributions and licensing requirements.
The theory proposed here has been extended to non-Chinese languages like
Miao and Zhuang.
This thesis is of relevance to anyone interested in the study of the
referential properties of noun phrases, nominal modification, or in the
study of different languages in China.