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A pragmatic approach to the interpretations of Mandarin bare nouns
Kuo, Jenny Yi-chun
Article from Journal - ilmiah internasional
Journal of Pragmatics: An Interdiciplinary Journal of Language Studies vol. 40 no. 6 (Jun. 2008)
Bare nouns are nouns that occur without demonstratives, numerals or articles. Mandarin bare nouns, like English bare plurals, can have a generic or existential interpretation. But unlike English bare plurals, they can also have definite reference. There have been proposals to account for the interpretations of Mandarin bare nouns in terms of syntactic structure (Audrey Li, 1997; Cheng and Sybesma, 1999) and predicate types (Jie Li, 1997). This paper attempts to simplify Jie Li’s (1997) generalizations by relating the kind referring vs. object referring interpretations to the semantic distinction between individual-level and stage-level predicates (Kratzer, 1989). I show that Mandarin bare nouns have a generic interpretation with individual-level predicates. With stage-level predicates, they have a definite interpretation when they are in topic position and an existential interpretation when they are not in topic position. However, bare nouns often do not appear as arguments of any predicates in natural discourse. This paper attempts to reconstruct sentence fragments based on contexts. I show that the Givenness Hierarchy (Gundel et al., 1993) restricts possible interpretations of Chinese bare nouns and that Relevance Theory (Sperber and Wilson, 1995) is needed to explain how people choose the intended interpretation from the possible ones.
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