On the role of classifiers in licensing Mandarin existential wh-phrases


  • Hsin-Lun Huang




As in many languages in the world, wh-phrases in Mandarin can be interpreted as more than interrogative, depending on where they appear. This paper focuses on one of the non-interrogative readings of Mandarin wh-phrases, the existential reading, and presents an account of the licensing conditions for this particular reading by examining its distribution. Moreover, this paper aims to tackle the issue concerning the required co-occurrence of existential wh-phrases and classifiers in certain environments, a puzzle that has received much notice (Li, 1992; Lin, 1998; Liao, 2011) but is not yet resolved. This paper argues that Mandarin wh-phrases require two ingredients to be existential, non-veridicality (Xie, 2007; Lin et al., 2014) and existential closure (?) (Kratzer and Shimoyama, 2002). And classifiers play the role of providing existential force to the wh-phrase when ? is unavailable. The (un-)availability of ? is conditioned by the application site of ? and the syntactic heights of non-veridical operators, whose scope constitutes the licensing domain for the wh-phrase: ? is unavailable when it falls outside the scope of the non-veridical operators, given a licensing condition proposed in this paper that limits the application of ? to wh-phrases to being within a non-veridical domain. In that case, a classifier is required for the existential interpretation of the wh-phrase.


How to Cite

Huang, H.-L. (2019). On the role of classifiers in licensing Mandarin existential wh-phrases. Proceedings of Sinn Und Bedeutung, 21(1), 567–586. https://doi.org/10.18148/sub/2018.v21i1.155