Scalarity and incomplete event descriptions in Mandarin Chinese
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This dissertation investigates the relation between scalar structure and event structure and focuses on the differences between two types of Mandarin induced change of state verbs: monomorphemic verbs and VV compounds. For example, the English induced change of state verb kill can be translated into Mandarin either as sha 'kill' or sha-si 'kill-dead'. I propose that both translations are not equivalent to the meaning of the English verb. The monomorphemic verb sha differs from English kill in the degree of state-change that it describes and the compound verb sha-si in its semantic structure (as shown by its scopal possibilities when combined with modal or aspect operators). It is well-known that Chinese perfective accomplishment sentences do not necessarily entail that the maximal state-change is completed. I call this fact the Incompleteness Effect (IE). I propose that the IE is determined by the scales that verbs are associated with. In terms of gradabilty, I distinguish two major types of scales: simple scales and complex scales. Simple scales consist of two degrees, a minimum degree and a maximum degree while complex scales consist of at least three degrees, a minimum degree, a maximum degree, and some degree(s) between the two. The former describes a binary state-change, while the latter describes a gradable change. I claim that verbs associated with complex scales display the IE while verbs associated with simple scales do not display the IE. I conclude that for sentences with monomorphemic induced change of state verbs, any degree change that is less than or equal to the maximum degree on the scale makes the sentence true in Mandarin. In contrast, for sentences containing Mandarin VV compounds induced change of state verbs, the change has to reach the maximum degree. Mandarin compound induced change of state verbs also differ from their English counterpart in their semantic structure. I argue that these verbs specify in their semantic structure which subevent is available for temporal, aspectual, and modal modification. I called such subevent the Distinguished Subevent. I further argue that the Distinguished Subevent in VV compounds is the result state. I propose a Minimal Recursion Semantics analysis and show that Minimal Recursion Semantics provides a natural model for the lexically specified scopal restrictions of VV compounds, in addition to its original use in underpecifying scopal relations.