Lecture | Com(parative) Syn(tax) Series
On Mandarin propositional assertion sentences with 'shì' and 'de'
- Thursday 17 June 2021
- Com(parative) Syn(tax) Series
- Online via Skype (email email@example.com for access)
In Mandarin, a number of different constructions surface with a copular like element shì or a sentence final de or both. They are easily confused with cleft constructions which also contain shì and de. The current study concentrates on one type of shì…de construction which has a propositional broad focus interpretation (often translated in English as “It is (indeed) the case/situation that…”). For instance:
(1) Nà-ge dìfang wǒ shì qù-guo de.
dem-cl place 1sg be go-exp sfp
‘It is (indeed) the case that I have been to that place.’
(2) Zài-shì-nèi shì bìxū dài kǒuzhào de.
at-room-inside be must wear mask sfp
‘It is (indeed) the case that one must wear a mask in indoor spaces.’
(3) Wǒ shì chángcháng qù nàli chīfàn de.
1sg be often go there eat.meal sfp
‘It is (indeed) the case that I often have my meals there.’
(4) Zhāng Sān shì zhīdào zhè-jiàn shì de.
Zhang San be know dem-cl thing sfp
‘It is (indeed) the case that Zhang San knows this thing.’
In addition to the situation denoted by the predicate, these sentences also involve the speaker’s conviction about the proposition when shì and de appear. This study first defines the key syntactic and semantic properties of such propositional assertion sentences that can be distinguished from other constructions with shì and/or de. On the basis of these, shared features of all types of predicates that can be licensed in the scope of shì…de are examined. The licit predicates must be finite, stative, and declarative. Three selectional restrictions imposed by the propositional assertion sentences are accordingly put forth: [+finite], [+stative], and [-q]. We further argue that [+stative] is associated with de, [-q] is associated with shì, and [+finite] is related to both. In addition, the function of modals (e.g. (2)), aspects (e.g. (1)), and habitual elements (e.g. (3)) in relation to eventuality is discussed. We argue that they can serve as “type shifters”, turning eventives into statives.