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Title: Temporal Reference of Cantonese
Authors: Choi, Misty Ka-man
Keywords: Sino-Tibetan Languages
Chinese Languages
Issue Date: 2006
Publisher: Hong Kong University
Abstract: This thesis investigates the distinction between negation markers bu and mei, and shows that it is the different aspectual selections that make bu and mei behave differently. Specifically, bu selects stative predicates, and mei selects stage-level predicates. The stage-level predicate is defined under the classification criterion of the distinction between stage-level predicates and individual-level predicates. The stage-level predicate is different from the individual-level predicate mainly in that the former has an event variable. Because [+static] and [+stage-level] are not two opposite features, bu and mei are not in complementary distribution. In the first part of this thesis, we will talk about the two classification criteria of predicates in Mandarin Chinese, and will divide all the predicates into four major types with two pairs of features, namely, [+static]/[+eventive] and [+stage-level]/[+individual-level]. Each type of predicates shows their own characteristics when choosing the negation markers. The two facts of bu (cf. Huang 1988) get plausible explanation under this assumption on the aspectual selection of the negation markers. We then focus on those predicates with both [+stage-level] and [+static] properties, and show that the property they are inclined to express determines the negation marker they would choose. As the derived individual-level predicates attract much attention, we will make detailed discussions on their choice of negation markers and the scope interaction of the quantificational adverb and the negator in this kind of sentences. Another question in this part is, for every kind of empty modal to appear, what the specific conditions are, since we often resort to the empty modals hypothesis to save our assumption from some counterexamples. The second part of this thesis explores the syntactic properties of bu and mei, based on which, we investigate the negation scope and the negation object of them. We argue that, bu is an adjunct inside VP, while mei is a Neg0 outside VP. So the syntactic position of mei is higher than that of bu. The maximal VP and the maximal V’ are the c-commanding domains of mei and bu respectively, and their negation scope is the adjacent maximal verb phrase. As to the negation object, bu is more flexible than mei in choosing different elements in the negation scope. The third part of this thesis provides two pieces of evidence to support our main claim, one from the negative particle questions where the negation markers take the sentence final position and the other from the discussion on the aspectual viewpoint of bu and mei. The present study launches a syntactic and semantic investigation into Chinese negation markers, and attributes their distributions to their distinct sensitivities to different types of predicates.
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