Volume 7, Issue 2
  • ISSN 2213-8706
  • E-ISSN: 2213-8714
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This paper investigates the syntax of dative constructions (DCs) in Mandarin from the perspective of quantifier scope interpretation. In the literature, doubly quantified DCs such as ‘Xiaoming mailed one postcard to every teacher’ have been claimed to be scopally ambiguous, and different syntactic analyses have been proposed based on this observation. Crucially, however, DCs with the universal direct object (DO) preceding the existential indirect object (IO), e.g., ‘Xiaoming mailed every postcard to one teacher’, appear to be ambiguous, where only the existential IO seems to take wide scope. This problem, which we call the , has not been systematically explored, either theoretically or experimentally. To fill this gap, we conducted an experiment on the scope interpretation of dative sentences in Mandarin, which confirms the above observation. A syntactic analysis for Mandarin DCs is proposed accordingly, where it is argued that (i) DCs share the same underlying structure with shift constructions (SCs) of the form [Subj V- IO DO], both containing a causative P embedded under an action verb (cf. Cheng et al. 1999); (ii) the surface form of a DC is derived by an optional, P-internal scrambling of the DO from the lowest complement position to an adjunct position; and (iii) such scrambling does not affect scope interpretation. Our proposal suggests that, insofar as inherently ditransitive verbs are concerned, Mandarin DCs and SCs are derivationally related, and the observed dative puzzle is shown to follow from the structural hierarchy of the advocated base syntax of DCs.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): dative alternation; dative construction; Mandarin; quantifier scope; shift construction
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