Volume 7, Issue 1
  • ISSN 2213-8706
  • E-ISSN: 2213-8714
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This paper provides a classification of modal verbs of possibility and necessity in Late Archaic and Early Middle Chinese based on an analysis of their scopal features with respect to negation. It shows that circumstantial readings and deontic readings are interpreted in two different syntactic positions which can be determined by the scope of negation following the cartographic approach proposed in Tsai (20082015) and the proposal of Cormack and Smith (2002) of a Polarity Head, which constitutes a syntactic divide of the domain of necessity modals from the domain of circumstantial modals. Our analysis of the scope of negation demonstrates that the deontic interpretation of possibility modals requires their upward movement from the lexical to the functional domain as part of the grammaticalization process from pre-modal lexical verbs to modal auxiliaries of different functions in Modern Mandarin. In Early Middle Chinese, negated modal verbs of possibility start to replace the synthetic modal negators of Archaic Chinese as part of the general process of analyticization of Chinese. We also show that the only true necessity modals in Late Archaic Chinese belong to the category of circumstantial modals due to their scopal features when they are negated.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): Grammaticalization; Late Archaic; Middle Chinese; Modal verbs; Negation; Scope
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