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ERIC Number: ED566753
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2016
Pages: 246
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: N/A
ISBN: 978-1-3394-8101-2
The Semantic-Pragmatics Interface and Island Constraints in Chinese
Jin, Dawei
ProQuest LLC, Ph.D. Dissertation, State University of New York at Buffalo
This thesis is about strong island effects and intervention effects. Strong island effects are contexts where operator-variable dependencies cannot be established. The paradigmatic cases of strong island violations in Chinese occur in "why"-questions. This thesis explores a basic contrast: "why"-questions fail to be interpreted in strong island contexts, as opposed to other "wh"-questions. This contrast is illustrated in (1a) and (1b): (1) a. "#Ni xiang mai [ta weishenme xie] de shu?" You want to buy the why write REL book #"Why[subscript i] do you want to buy the book [that he wrote t[subscript i]]?" b. "Ni xiang mai [ta yinwei shenme xie] de shu?" You want to buy he because of what write REL book #"What is the reason[subscript i] such that you want to buy the book that he wrote for that reason[subscript i]?" The main questions that my account of strong islands addresses are the following: Is it true that only "why"-questions induce strong island violations, while others don't?; If Chinese strong island violations are indeed tied to "why"-questions, what is special about this question type that leads to strong island violations?; What is the nature of strong island violations in "why"-questions? Are they syntactic, semantic, pragmatic or a combination? This thesis develops a semantic account for strong islands, and the core idea can be summarized as follows. What sets apart the reason adverb "why" from other "wh"-interrogative phrases is that "why" is ontologically different. "Why" modifies propositions, relating a proposition to a set of reasons, rather than corresponding to a part of the proposition. This proposition-level operation exhibits a main clause phenomenon, meaning that a "why"-question should only occur as a root clause (main clause). Based on this observation, I conclude that no "why"-questions may be embedded. In this view, the island-creating contexts cause interpretation problems simply because they are embedded clauses. There is nothing special about these island domains "per se". Indeed, I provide evidence that a "why"-question cannot even embed as a complement clause. This theory predicts that if we can find another type of question that similarly modifies the proposition level, island effects should arise there, too. In this thesis, I find one such example in A-not-A questions. I argue that A-not-A questions are yes-no questions that relate a proposition to its truth values. As predicted, island effects occur in A-not-A questions. Intervention effects arise when scope-taking elements linearly precede an interrogative phrase. This constraint resembles strong island violations, in that it also applies to why-questions and A-not-A questions, yet fails to apply to other "wh"-questions. In this thesis, I show that intervention exhibits variability: (i) monotone increasing quantifiers as well as non-monotonic quantifiers do not obey the intervention constraint; (ii) conversely, monotone decreasing quantifiers and focus-sensitive expressions are subject to the constraint. Based on the proposal that "why"-questions and A-not-A questions involve interrogative phrases that are proposition-level modifiers, my thesis proposes that scope-taking elements that take precedence over the interrogative phrases need to be topics. This proposal correctly predicts the variability in intervention effects. [The dissertation citations contained here are published with the permission of ProQuest LLC. Further reproduction is prohibited without permission. Copies of dissertations may be obtained by Telephone (800) 1-800-521-0600. Web page:]
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Publication Type: Dissertations/Theses - Doctoral Dissertations
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A