The Compositionality Of Mandarin Aspect: A Parallel Translation Corpus Study

Author: Chou Mo
LOT Number: 628
ISBN: 978-94-6093-415-5
Pages: 365
Year: 2022
1st promotor: Henriëtte de Swart
2nd promotor: Bert Le Bruyn
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Mandarin Chinese does not grammaticalize tense, but makes abundant use of aspectual distinctions in the lexicon and grammar. The way it shapes reference to time and events is consequently very different from that in European languages. This dissertation studies the compositional interpretation of Mandarin aspect, grounded in empirical data from a parallel corpus. The corpus consists of a French source text and translations to a number of European languages and to Mandarin, allowing the author to use European tense-aspect distinctions as a probe into the Mandarin aspectual system. The corpus data provide empirical support for claims made in the literature about zhe (imperfective marker), zai (progressive marker), and guo (experiential perfect marker). They also provide support for the hypothesis that aspectually unmarked sentences have a stative interpretation by default, while eventive interpretations must use overt aspectual expressions. In the last part of the thesis, the author builds a semantic analysis of so-called resultative verb constructions and their competitor, known as post-verbal le. Resultative verb constructions combine the verb with a resultative complement to produce a telic event plus a result state at the interface between lexicon and syntax. Post-verbal le is an aspectual marker that leads to a perfective or resultative perfect interpretation depending on the kind of eventuality description it combines with. The dissertation finds that Mandarin establishes more complex aspectual distinctions than the perfective/imperfective or progressive/non-progressive dichotomies in European languages, and that parallel corpus data can be fruitfully used to bring out the relevant differences.

Mandarin Chinese does not grammaticalize tense, but makes abundant use of aspectual distinctions in the lexicon and grammar. The way it shapes reference to time and events is consequently very different from that in European languages. This dissertation studies the compositional interpretation of Mandarin aspect, grounded in empirical data from a parallel corpus. The corpus consists of a French source text and translations to a number of European languages and to Mandarin, allowing the author to use European tense-aspect distinctions as a probe into the Mandarin aspectual system. The corpus data provide empirical support for claims made in the literature about zhe (imperfective marker), zai (progressive marker), and guo (experiential perfect marker). They also provide support for the hypothesis that aspectually unmarked sentences have a stative interpretation by default, while eventive interpretations must use overt aspectual expressions. In the last part of the thesis, the author builds a semantic analysis of so-called resultative verb constructions and their competitor, known as post-verbal le. Resultative verb constructions combine the verb with a resultative complement to produce a telic event plus a result state at the interface between lexicon and syntax. Post-verbal le is an aspectual marker that leads to a perfective or resultative perfect interpretation depending on the kind of eventuality description it combines with. The dissertation finds that Mandarin establishes more complex aspectual distinctions than the perfective/imperfective or progressive/non-progressive dichotomies in European languages, and that parallel corpus data can be fruitfully used to bring out the relevant differences.

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