Volume 22, Issue 1
  • ISSN 1606-822X
  • E-ISSN: 2309-5067



A well-known generalization about bare numeral phrases (BNPs) in Mandarin is that they tend to require the existential verb ‘have’ when in subject position, but there are some notable exceptions. This paper concentrates on the data cited by Li (1998) and proposes an according to which a subject BNP is felicitous if and only if it is interpreted exhaustively. It is shown how this condition generalizes to all the constructions under discussion, while at the same time they each belong to a particular type of quantificational construction or another (cumulativity, scalar focus, sufficiency, or conditional). I argue that the close relation between Mandarin subject BNPs and exhaustivity not only explains the restricted distribution of the former but also enables us to account for their so-called quantity readings in terms of exhaustive interpretation. Comparisons of the proposal with previous approaches will also be discussed.

Available under the CC BY 4.0 license.

Article metrics loading...

Loading full text...

Full text loading...



  1. Beck, Sigrid & Rullmann, Hotze
    1999 A flexible approach to exhaustivity in questions. Natural Language Semantics7(3). 249–298. 10.1023/A:1008373224343
    https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1008373224343 [Google Scholar]
  2. Beck, Sigrid & Sauerland, Uli
    2000 Cumulation is needed: A reply to Winter (2000). Natural Language Semantics8(4). 349–371. 10.1023/A:1011240827230
    https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1011240827230 [Google Scholar]
  3. Biq, Yung-O.
    1984The semantics and pragmatics of cai and jiu in Mandarin Chinese. Ithaca: Cornell University. (Doctoral dissertation.)
    [Google Scholar]
  4. 1988 From focus in proposition to focus in speech situation: cai and jiu in Mandarin Chinese. Journal of Chinese Linguistics16(1). 72–108.
    [Google Scholar]
  5. Büring, Daniel
    2003 On d-trees, beans, and B-accents. Linguistics and Philosophy26(5). 511–545. 10.1023/A:1025887707652
    https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1025887707652 [Google Scholar]
  6. Büring, Daniel & Križ, Manuel
    2013 It’s that, and that’s it! Exhaustivity and homogeneity presuppositions in clefts (and definites). Semantics and Pragmatics61. 1–29. 10.3765/sp.6.6
    https://doi.org/10.3765/sp.6.6 [Google Scholar]
  7. Carlson, Greg N.
    1977 A unified analysis of the English bare plural. Linguistics and Philosophy1(3). 413–457. 10.1007/BF00353456
    https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00353456 [Google Scholar]
  8. Cheng, Lisa Lai-Shen & Sybesma, Rint
    1999 Bare and not-so-bare nouns and the structure of NP. Linguistic Inquiry30(4). 509–542. 10.1162/002438999554192
    https://doi.org/10.1162/002438999554192 [Google Scholar]
  9. 2014 The syntactic structure of noun phrases. In Huang, C.-T. James & Li, Y.-H. Audrey & Simpson, Andrew (eds.), The handbook of Chinese linguistics, 248–274. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell. 10.1002/9781118584552.ch10
    https://doi.org/10.1002/9781118584552.ch10 [Google Scholar]
  10. Cheng, Lisa Lai-Shen
    2009 On every type of quantificational expression in Chinese. In Giannakidou, Anastasia & Rathert, Monika (eds.), Quantification, definiteness, and nominalization, 53–75. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  11. 1991On the typology of wh-questions. Cambridge: MIT. (Doctoral dissertation.)
    [Google Scholar]
  12. Chierchia, Gennaro & Fox, Danny & Spector, Benjamin
    2013 Scalar implicature as a grammatical phenomenon. In Maienborn, Claudia & von Heusinger, Klaus & Portner, Paul (eds.), Semantics: An international handbook of natural language meaning, vol.31, 2297–2332. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton.
    [Google Scholar]
  13. Diesing, Molly
    1992Indefinites. Cambridge: The MIT Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  14. Evans, Gareth
    1980 Pronouns. Linguistic Inquiry11(2). 337–362.
    [Google Scholar]
  15. Fan, Jiyian
    1985 Wuding NP zhuyu ju [Sentences with indefinite NP subjects]. Zhongguo Yuwen [Studies of the Chinese Language] 1985(5). 321–328.
  16. Fang, Huilin
    2010The Mandarin existential construction: A verbal analysis of you. Hsinchu: National Tsing Hua University. (Master’s thesis.)
    [Google Scholar]
  17. Fang, Huilin & Lin, Tzong-Hong Jonah
    2008 The Mandarin you existential: A verbal analysis. UST Working Papers in Linguistics41. 43–56.
    [Google Scholar]
  18. von Fintel, Kai
    1994Restrictions on quantifier domains. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Amherst. (Doctoral dissertation.)
    [Google Scholar]
  19. Gazdar, Gerald
    1979Pragmatics: Implicature, presupposition, and logical form. New York: Academic Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  20. Hamblin, Charles L.
    1973 Questions in Montague English. Foundations of Language10(1). 41–53.
    [Google Scholar]
  21. Heim, Irene
    1982The semantics of definite and indefinite noun phrases. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Amherst. (Doctoral dissertation.)
    [Google Scholar]
  22. Hole, Daniel
    2004Focus and background marking in Mandarin Chinese: System and theory behind cái, jiù, dōu and yĕ. London: RoutledgeCurzon. 10.4324/9780203565193
    https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203565193 [Google Scholar]
  23. 2006 Mapping VPs to restrictors: Anti-Diesing effects in Mandarin Chinese. In von Heusinger, Klaus & Turner, Ken (eds.), Where semantics meets pragmatics, 337–380. Amsterdam: Elsevie.
    [Google Scholar]
  24. Huang, C.-T. James
    1988 Shuo shi he you [On be and have ]. The Bulletin of the Institute of History and Philosophy59(1). 43–64.
    [Google Scholar]
  25. Huang, Shi-Zhe
    1996Quantification and predication in Mandarin Chinese: A case study of dou. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania. (Doctoral dissertation.)
    [Google Scholar]
  26. Jiang, Li
    2012Nominal arguments and language variation. Cambridge: Harvard University. (Doctoral dissertation.)
    [Google Scholar]
  27. Jiang, Yan & Pan, Hai-hua & Zou, Chong-li
    1997 On the semantic content of noun phrases. In Xu, Liejiong (ed.), The referential properties of Chinese noun phrases, 3–24. Paris: École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales.
    [Google Scholar]
  28. Johnston, Michael
    1994The syntax and semantics of adverbial adjuncts. Santa Cruz: University of California at Santa Cruz. (Doctoral dissertation.)
    [Google Scholar]
  29. Kratzer, Angelika
    1995 Stage-level and individual-level predicates. In Carlson, Gregory N. & Pelletier, Francis Jeffry (eds.), The generic book, 125–175. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  30. 2014 Situations in natural language semantics. In Zalta, Edward N. (ed.), The Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy. Stanford: The Metaphysics Research Lab, Center for the Study of Language and Information, Stanford University. (Spring 2014 edition.)
    [Google Scholar]
  31. Krifka, Manfred
    1989 Nominal reference, temporal constitution, and quantification in event semantics. In Bartsch, Renate & van Benthem, Johan F. A. K. & van Emde Boas, Peter (eds.), Semantics and contextual expression, 75–115. Dordrecht: Foris Publication. 10.1515/9783110877335‑005
    https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110877335-005 [Google Scholar]
  32. 1992 Definite NPs aren’t quantifiers. Linguistic Inquiry23(1). 156–163.
    [Google Scholar]
  33. 1999 At least some determiners aren’t determiners. In Turner, Ken (ed.), The semantics/pragmatics interface from different points of view, 257–291. Oxford: Elsevier.
    [Google Scholar]
  34. Kroch, Anthony
    1974The semantics of scope in English. Cambridge: MIT. (Doctoral dissertation.)
    [Google Scholar]
  35. Lai, Huei-Ling
    1995Rejected expectations: The scalar particles cai and jiu in Mandarin Chinese. Austin: University of Texas at Austin. (Doctoral dissertation.)
    [Google Scholar]
  36. 1999 Rejected expectations: The scalar particles cai and jiu in Mandarin Chinese. Linguistics37(4). 625–661. 10.1515/ling.37.4.625
    https://doi.org/10.1515/ling.37.4.625 [Google Scholar]
  37. Lambrecht, Knud
    1994Information structure and sentence form: Topic, focus, and the mental representations of discourse referents. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 10.1017/CBO9780511620607
    https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511620607 [Google Scholar]
  38. Landman, Fred
    2000Events and plurality: The Jerusalem lectures. Dordrecht: Kluwer. 10.1007/978‑94‑011‑4359‑2
    https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-011-4359-2 [Google Scholar]
  39. Larson, Richard & Sawada, Miyuki
    2012 Root transformations and quantificational structure. In Aelbrecht, Lobke & Haegeman, Liliane & Nye, Rachel (eds.), Main clause phenomena: New horizons, 47–78. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. 10.1075/la.190.03lar
    https://doi.org/10.1075/la.190.03lar [Google Scholar]
  40. Lee, Thomas H.-T.
    1986Studies on quantification in Chinese. Los Angeles: UCLA. (Doctoral dissertation.)
    [Google Scholar]
  41. Li, Yen-hui Audrey
    1998 Argument determiner phrases and number phrases. Linguistic Inquiry29(4). 693–702. 10.1162/ling.1998.29.4.693
    https://doi.org/10.1162/ling.1998.29.4.693 [Google Scholar]
  42. Liao, Hsiu-Chen
    2011Alternatives and exhaustification: Non-interrogative uses of Chinese wh-words. Cambridge: Harvard University. (Doctoral dissertation.)
    [Google Scholar]
  43. Liao, Wei-wen
    2011The symmetry of syntactic relations. Los Angeles: University of Southern California. (Doctoral dissertation.)
    [Google Scholar]
  44. Lin, Tzong-Hong Jonah
    1997 On ge and other related problems. In Xu, Liejiong (ed.), The referential properties of Chinese noun phrases, 209–253. Paris: École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales.
    [Google Scholar]
  45. Link, Godehard
    1987 Generalized quantifiers and plurals. In Gärdenfors, Peter (ed.), Generalized quantifiers: Linguistic and logical approaches, 151–180. Dordrecht: D. Reidel Publishing Company. 10.1007/978‑94‑009‑3381‑1_6
    https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-009-3381-1_6 [Google Scholar]
  46. Liu, Feng-hsi
    1997Scope and specificity. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. 10.1075/la.16
    https://doi.org/10.1075/la.16 [Google Scholar]
  47. Liu, Mingming
    2017 Varieties of alternatives: Mandarin focus particles. Linguistics and Philosophy40(1). 61–95. 10.1007/s10988‑016‑9199‑y
    https://doi.org/10.1007/s10988-016-9199-y [Google Scholar]
  48. Liu, Yi-Fen
    2005The fine structure of distributivity in Chinese. Hsinchu: National Chiao Tung University. (Master’s thesis.)
    [Google Scholar]
  49. Longobardi, Giuseppe
    1994 Reference and proper names: A theory of n-movement in syntax and logical form. Linguistic Inquiry25(4). 609–665.
    [Google Scholar]
  50. Lu, Shuo & Pan, Haihua
    2009 Hanyu wuding zhuyu de yuyi yunzhun fenxi [The semantic licensing conditions of indefinite subjects in Mandarin Chinese]. Zhongguo Yuwen [Studies of the Chinese Language] 2009(6). 528–537.
  51. Lu, Xiaofei
    2004 On the distribution of Chinese number expressions. In Tur, Sylwia & Levi, Susannah (eds.), Proceedings of the 20th Northwest Linguistics Conference, 145–160. Seattle: University of Washington.
    [Google Scholar]
  52. Meier, Cécile
    2003 The meaning of too, enough, and so…that . Natural Language Semantics11(1). 69–107. 10.1023/A:1023002608785
    https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1023002608785 [Google Scholar]
  53. Milsark, Gary
    1974Existential sentences in English. Cambridge: MIT. (Doctoral dissertation.)
    [Google Scholar]
  54. Paris, Marie-Claude
    1985 The semantics of jiu and cai in Mandarin Chinese. Computational Analyses of Asian and African Languages241. 181–196.
    [Google Scholar]
  55. Partee, Barbara
    1995 Quantificational structures and compositionality. In Bach, Emmon & Jelinek, Eloise & Kratzer, Angelika & Partee, Barbara (eds.), Quantification in natural languages, 541–601. Dordrecht: Kluwer.
    [Google Scholar]
  56. van Rooij, Robert & Schulz, Katrin
    2017 Topic, focus, and exhaustive interpretation. In Lee, Chungmin & Kiefer, Ferenc & Krifka, Manfred (eds.), Contrastiveness in information structure, alternatives and scalar implicatures, 63–82. Cham: Springer. 10.1007/978‑3‑319‑10106‑4_4
    https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-10106-4_4 [Google Scholar]
  57. Rooth, Mats
    1985Association with focus. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Amherst. (Doctoral dissertation.)
    [Google Scholar]
  58. 1992 A theory of focus interpretation. Natural Language Semantics1(1). 75–116. 10.1007/BF02342617
    https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02342617 [Google Scholar]
  59. Scha, Remko
    1981 Distributive, collective and cumulative quantification. In Groenendijk, Jeroen & Janssen, Theo M. V. & Stokhof, Martin J. B. (eds.), Formal methods in the study of language, 483–512. Amsterdam, Netherlands: Mathematisch Centrum.
    [Google Scholar]
  60. Schwarzschild, Roger
    1996Pluralities. Dordrecht: Kluwer. 10.1007/978‑94‑017‑2704‑4
    https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-017-2704-4 [Google Scholar]
  61. Simpson, Andrew
    2012 The silence of the bucks: A note on Kayne’s “Grand and its silent entourage”. Studies in Chinese Linguistics33(2). 87–101.
    [Google Scholar]
  62. Tsai, Wei-Tien Dylan
    2001 On subject specificity and theory of syntax-semantics interface. Journal of East Asian Linguistics10(2). 129–168. 10.1023/A:1008321327978
    https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1008321327978 [Google Scholar]
  63. 2008 Object specificity in Chinese: A view from the vP periphery. The Linguistic Review25(3–4). 479–502.
    [Google Scholar]
  64. Xiang, Yimei
    2016Interpreting questions with non-exhaustive answers. Cambridge: Harvard University. (Doctoral dissertation.)
    [Google Scholar]
  65. Xu, Liejiong
    1997 Limitations on subjecthood of numerically quantified noun phrases: A pragmatic approach. In Xu, Liejiong (ed.), The referential properties of Chinese noun phrases, 25–44. Paris: École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales.
    [Google Scholar]
  66. Yao, Shuiying
    2010 Stage/individual-level predicates, topics and indefinite subjects. In Otoguro, Ryo & Ishikawa, Kiyoshi & Umemoto, Hiroshi & Yoshimoto, Kei & Harada, Yasunari (eds.), Proceedings of the 24th Pacific Asia Conference on Language, Information and Computation, 573–582. Tokyo: Institute of Digital Enhancement of Cognitive Processing, Waseda University.
    [Google Scholar]
  67. Zhang, Lei & Lee, Peppina Po-lun
    2013 A semantic study of the adverb jiu in Mandarin Chinese. In Liu, Pengyuan & Su, Qi (eds.), Chinese lexical semantics: 14th Workshop, CLSW 2013, Zhengzhou, China, May 10–12, 2013, Revised selected papers, 318–327. Berlin: Springer. 10.1007/978‑3‑642‑45185‑0_34
    https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-642-45185-0_34 [Google Scholar]
  68. Zhang, Niina Ning
    2010Coordination in syntax. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): bare numeral phrase; cumulativity; exhaustivity; focus; quantity interpretation; sufficiency
This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was successful
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error