Volume 8, Issue 1
  • ISSN 2213-8706
  • E-ISSN: 2213-8714
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This study investigates the licensing conditions and interpretational variability of indefinite subjects in Mandarin. Against the ‘definiteness’ constraint of subject in Mandarin (Chao 1968Li and Thompson 1981), three types of indefinite subjects are identified in the subject position, but they exhibit different scope behaviors: (i) -nominals are ambiguous between a wide scope and a narrow scope, and (ii) thetic subjects are narrow-scope taking, and (iii) ‘cardinal’ subjects are scopeless. Following Cohen and Erteschik-Shir (2002), we propose that the former two types of indefinite subjects are focus elements and they fall into the position of nuclear scope, where they receive an existential interpretation, and cardinal subjects are topics and they serve as restrictor to some generic operator. Moreover, the wide/narrow scope readings of -nominals are distinguished from each other in terms of whether a topic domain is available or not, which may serve a domain restrictor to the existential quantifier bound to -nominals (Portner 2002).


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  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): cardinal subject; existentials; focus; genericity; thetic judgment; topicality
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