Volume 18, Issue 4
  • ISSN 1606-822X
  • E-ISSN: 2309-5067



In this paper, some mysteries and asymmetries of the Chinese potential construction are investigated. It is shown that a morphosytnactic approach is conducive to accounting for these puzzles. First we explore the possibility of taking and its negative counterpart - as functional heads (cf. Tsai 2001T. Wu 2004). It is proposed that could be a functional head with the negative potential (i.e. impossible/impermissible) meaning. This could be evidenced by both empirical data and theoretical deduction. It is argued that in V--R, which is distinct from the normal pre-verbal negative morpheme , is actually . This helps to explain why the negative potential meaning is involved in V--R. Meanwhile, V- and V--R are both assumed to be formed through Morphological Merger (cf. Marantz 1988Embick & Noyer 20012007, etc.). Meanwhile, we have discussed some asymmetries observed between V- and V--R and some paradigmatic asymmetries between potential V- construction and its negative potential V- construction. It is assumed that these syntactic asymmetries may be due to some morphological operations related to and .


Article metrics loading...

Loading full text...

Full text loading...



  1. Baker, Mark C.
    1988Incorporation: A Theory of Grammatical Function Changing. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  2. Beck, Sigrid
    1996Wh-constructions and Transparent Logical Form. Tübingen: University of Tübingen dissertation.
    [Google Scholar]
  3. 2006 Intervention effects follow from focus interpretation. Natural Language Semantics14.11: 1–56. doi:  10.1007/s11050‑005‑4532‑y
    https://doi.org/10.1007/s11050-005-4532-y [Google Scholar]
  4. Beck, Sigrid , & Shin-Sook Kim
    1997 On wh- and operator scope in Korean. Journal of East Asian Linguistics6.41: 339–384. doi:  10.1023/A:1008280026102
    https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1008280026102 [Google Scholar]
  5. Bobaljik, Jonathan David
    1995Morphosyntax: The Syntax of Verbal Inflection. Cambridge: The MIT dissertation.
    [Google Scholar]
  6. 2002 A-chains at the PF-interface: copies and ‘covert’ movement. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory201: 197–267. doi:  10.1023/A:1015059006439
    https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1015059006439 [Google Scholar]
  7. Chao, Yuen-Ren
    1968A Grammar of Spoken Chinese. Berkeley: University of California Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  8. Chen, Li , Po-lun Lee , & Haihua Pan
    2013 Hanyu foudingci ‘bu’ de jufadiwei [The syntactic status of bu in Mandarin]. Yuyan Kexue [ Linguistic Sciences ] 41: 337–348.
    [Google Scholar]
  9. Chen, Qianrui
    2008Hanyu Timao Yanjiu de Leixingxue Shiye [A Typological View on Aspects in Mandarin Chinese]. Beijing: The Commercial Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  10. Cheng, Gong , & Jianguo Xiong
    2014 Zhongguo he dongnanya yu zhong de de zi jiegou [On the de construction in China and other East Asian languages]. Paper presented atThird Symposium on Syntax and Semantics in China, October18–19 2014 Xiangtan: Xiangtan University.
    [Google Scholar]
  11. Cheng, Lisa Lai-Shen , & Rint Sybesma
    2003 Forked modality. Linguistics in the Netherlands 2003, ed. by Leonie M. E. A. Cornips & Paula Fikkert , 13–23. Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
    [Google Scholar]
  12. 2004 Postverbal “can” in Cantonese (and Hakka) and agree. Lingua114.41: 419–446. doi:  10.1016/S0024‑3841(03)00067‑6
    https://doi.org/10.1016/S0024-3841(03)00067-6 [Google Scholar]
  13. Chomsky, Noam
    1957Syntactic Structures. The Hague: Mouton. 10.1515/9783112316009
    https://doi.org/10.1515/9783112316009 [Google Scholar]
  14. 1981Lectures on Government and Binding. Cambridge: The MIT Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  15. 1995The Minimalist Program. Cambridge: The MIT Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  16. Chung, Zoey Jui-Yi
    2012 Investigating the syntax of postverbal modals in Hakka. Taiwan Journal of Linguistics10.11: 69–114.
    [Google Scholar]
  17. Cinque, Guglielmo
    1999Adverbs and Functional Heads: A Cross-Linguistic Perspective. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  18. Dahl, Östen
    2010 Typology of negation. The Expression of Negation, ed. by Laurence R. Horn , 9–38. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton. 10.1515/9783110219302.9
    https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110219302.9 [Google Scholar]
  19. Dong, Xiufang
    2011Cihuihua: Hanyu Shuangyinci de Yansheng he Fazhan [ Lexicalization: the Origin and Evolution of Chinese Disyllabic Words ] (revised edition). Beijing: The Commercial Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  20. Embick, David , & Rolf Noyer
    2001 Movement operations after syntax. Linguistic Inquiry32.41: 555–595. doi:  10.1162/002438901753373005
    https://doi.org/10.1162/002438901753373005 [Google Scholar]
  21. 2007 Distributed morphology and the syntax-morphology interface. The Oxford Handbook of Linguistic Interfaces, ed. by Gillian Ramchand & Charles Reiss , 289–324. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  22. Ernst, Thomas
    1995 Negation in Mandarin Chinese. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory13.41: 665–707. doi:  10.1007/BF00992855
    https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00992855 [Google Scholar]
  23. 2014 Adverbial adjuncts in Mandarin Chinese. The Handbook of Chinese Linguistics, 49–72. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell. doi:  10.1002/9781118584552.ch3
    https://doi.org/10.1002/9781118584552.ch3 [Google Scholar]
  24. Fan, Li
    2007 Ertong dui Putonghua zhong foudingci de zaoqi huode [Early child language acquisition of negative words in Mandarin Chinese]. Xiandai Waiyu [ Modern Foreign Languages ] 30.21: 144–154.
    [Google Scholar]
  25. Feng, Shengli
    2005Hanyu Yunlü Yufa Yanjiu [ Studies on Chinese Prosodic Grammar ]. Beijing: Peking University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  26. 2009Hanyu de Yunlü, Cifa yu Jufa [ Interactions between Morphology, Syntax and Prosody in Chinese ] (revised edition). Beijing: Peking University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  27. 2014 Historical syntax of Chinese. The Handbook of Chinese Linguistics, ed. by C.-T. James Huang , Y.-H. Audrey Li & Andrew Simpson , 537–575. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell. doi:  10.1002/9781118584552.ch21
    https://doi.org/10.1002/9781118584552.ch21 [Google Scholar]
  28. Gelderen, Elly van
    2004Grammaticalization as Economy. Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins. doi:  10.1075/la.71
    https://doi.org/10.1075/la.71 [Google Scholar]
  29. 2011The Linguistic Cycle Language Change and the Language Faculty. Oxford: Oxford University Press. doi:  10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199756056.001.0001
    https://doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199756056.001.0001 [Google Scholar]
  30. Hackl, Martin
    1998On the Semantics of ‘Ability Attributions’. Cambridge: The MIT Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  31. Halle, Morris , & Alec Marantz
    1993 Distributed morphology and the pieces of inflection. The View from Building 20: Essays in Linguistics in Honor of Sylvain Bromberger, ed. by Ken Hale & Samuel Jay Keyser , 111–176. Cambridge: The MIT Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  32. Harley, Heidi , & Rolf Noyer
    1999 State-of-the-article: distributed morphology. Glot International4.41: 3–9.
    [Google Scholar]
  33. Hu, Jianhua
    2007 Fouding jiaodian yu xiayu [Negation, focus and scope]. Zhongguo Yuwen [ Studies of the Chinese Language ] 21: 99–112.
    [Google Scholar]
  34. Hu, Xiaoming
    2010A New Study on Mandarin Irrealis “V DE/BU X” Construction. Honolulu: University of Hawaii at Manoa dissertation.
    [Google Scholar]
  35. Huang, C.-T. James
    1982Logical Relations in Chinese and the Theory of Grammar. Cambridge: The MIT dissertation.
    [Google Scholar]
  36. 1988Wo pao de kuai and Chinese phrase structure. Language641: 274–311. doi:  10.2307/415435
    https://doi.org/10.2307/415435 [Google Scholar]
  37. 2006 Resultatives and unaccusatives: a parametric view. Bulletin of the Chinese Linguistic Society of Japan2531: 1–43. doi:  10.7131/chuugokugogaku.2006.1
    https://doi.org/10.7131/chuugokugogaku.2006.1 [Google Scholar]
  38. 2014 On syntactic analyticity and parametric theory. Chinese Syntax in a Cross-Linguistic Perspective, ed. by Audrey Li , Andrew Simpson & W.-T. Dylan Tsai , 1–48. Oxford: Oxford University Press. doi:  10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199945658.003.0001
    https://doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199945658.003.0001 [Google Scholar]
  39. Huang, C.-T. James , Y.-H. Audrey Li , & Yafei Li
    2009The Syntax of Chinese. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi:  10.1017/CBO9781139166935
    https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781139166935 [Google Scholar]
  40. Kim, Shin-Sook
    2002 Intervention effects are focus effects. Japanese/Korean Linguistics101: 615–628.
    [Google Scholar]
  41. Ko, Heejeong
    2005 Syntax of why-in-situ: merge into [Spec, CP] in the overt syntax. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory23.41: 867–916. doi:  10.1007/s11049‑004‑5923‑3
    https://doi.org/10.1007/s11049-004-5923-3 [Google Scholar]
  42. Kratzer, Angelika
    1996 Severing the external argument from its verb. Phrase Structure and the Lexicon, ed. by Johan Rooryck & Laurie Zaring , 109–137. Dordrecht: Kluwer. doi:  10.1007/978‑94‑015‑8617‑7_5
    https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-015-8617-7_5 [Google Scholar]
  43. Legate, Julie Anne
    2014Voice and v: Lessons from Acehnese. Cambridge: The MIT Press. doi:  10.7551/mitpress/9780262028141.001.0001
    https://doi.org/10.7551/mitpress/9780262028141.001.0001 [Google Scholar]
  44. Li, Charles N. , & Sandra A. Thompson
    1981Mandarin Chinese: A Functional Reference Grammar. Berkeley: University of California Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  45. Li, Haoze , & Chi-Hang Candice Cheung
    2012 Hanyu jidian ganshe xiaoying de jufafenxi [The syntactic analysis of focus intervention effects in Mandarin]. Yuyan Kexue [ Linguisitic Sciences ] 11.21: 113–125.
    [Google Scholar]
  46. Li, Liding
    1963[1994] Dai ‘de’ zi de buyu ju [Sentences with de-complements]. Zhongguo Yuwen1963.51: 396–410. Also inLi Lingding Zixuanji [ Selected Papers of Lingding Li ], 12–47. Zhengzhou: Henan Educational Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  47. Li, Mei
    2007Xiandai Hanyu Foudingjufa Yanjiu [ Negation in Chinese ]. Shanghai: Shanghai Foreign Languages Education Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  48. Li, Yen-Hui Audrey
    1990Order and Constituency in Mandarin Chinese. Dordrecht: Kluwer. doi:  10.1007/978‑94‑009‑1898‑6
    https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-009-1898-6 [Google Scholar]
  49. 2010 Case and objects. Paper resented inGLOW-in-Asia 8, August12–14 2010 Beijing: Beijing Language and Culture University.
    [Google Scholar]
  50. 2011 Non-canonical objects and case. Korea Journal of Chinese Language and Literature1.11: 21–51.
    [Google Scholar]
  51. Lien, Chinfa
    2011 Interface of modality and tit4 得 constructions in South Min: a case study of their development from earlier Southern Min in the Ming and Qing to Modern Taiwanese Southern Min. Language and Linguistics12.41: 723–752.
    [Google Scholar]
  52. Lightfoot, David W.
    1979Principles of Diachronic Syntax. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  53. Lin, Jo-wang
    1992 The Syntax of zenmeyang ‘how’ and weishenme ‘why’ in Mandarin Chinese. Journal of East Asian Linguistics1.31: 293–331. doi:  10.1007/BF00130555
    https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00130555 [Google Scholar]
  54. Lin, Jo-wang , & Chih-Chen Jane Tang
    1995 Modals as verbs in Chinese: a GB perspective. Bulletin of the Institute of History and Philology Academia Sinica66.11: 53–105.
    [Google Scholar]
  55. Lin, T.-H. Jonah
    2011 Finiteness of clauses and raising of arguments in Mandarin Chinese. Syntax14.11: 48–73.
    [Google Scholar]
  56. 2012 Multiple-modal constructions in Mandarin Chinese and their finiteness properties. Journal of Linguistics48.11: 151–186. doi:  10.1017/S0022226711000272
    https://doi.org/10.1017/S0022226711000272 [Google Scholar]
  57. Liu, Na
    2012On the Syntax, Semantics and Typology of Non-Canonical Passives. Beijing: Beijing Language and Culture University dissertation.
    [Google Scholar]
  58. Lü, Shuxiang
    1990[1944] Yu dongci hou ‘de’ yu ‘bu’ youguan de cixu wenti [The issue of word order in connection with the post-verbal de and bu ]. Lü Shuxiang Wenji [ Papers by Lü Shuxiang ], Vol.21, ed. by Shuxiang Lü , 132–144. Beijing: The Commercial Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  59. Marantz, Alec
    1984On the Nature of Grammatical Relations. Cambridge: The MIT Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  60. 1988 Clitics, morphological merger, and the mapping to phonological structure. Theoretical Morphology: Approches in Modern Linguistics, ed. by M. Hammond & M. Noonan , 253–270. San Diego: Academic Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  61. McCloskey, James
    1996 On the Scope of Verb Movement in Irish. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory14.11: 47–104.
    [Google Scholar]
  62. Mei, Tsu-Lin
    1991 Cong Handai de dong-sha he dong-si lai kan dongbu jiegou de fazhang [A look at the development of the verb-resultative construction from ‘V-kill’ and ‘V-die’ in the Han dynasty]. Yuyanxue Luncong [ Essays on Linguistics ] 161: 112–136.
    [Google Scholar]
  63. 2012 The causative *s- and nominalizing *-s in Old Chinese and related matters in Proto-Sino-Tibetan. Language and Linguistics13.11: 1–28.
    [Google Scholar]
  64. Parsons, Terence
    1990Events in the Semantics of English: A Study of Subatomic Semantics. Cambridge: The MIT Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  65. Portner, Paul
    2009Modality. New York: Oxford University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  66. Pylkkänen, Liina
    2008Introducing Arguments. Cambridge: The MIT Press. doi:  10.7551/mitpress/9780262162548.001.0001
    https://doi.org/10.7551/mitpress/9780262162548.001.0001 [Google Scholar]
  67. Rizzi, Luigi
    2004 Locality and left periphery. Structures and Beyond: The Cartography of Syntactic Structures, Vol.31, ed. by Adriana Belletti , 223–251. New York: Oxford University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  68. Roberts, Ian G.
    1985 Agreement parameters and the development of English modal auxiliaries. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory3.11: 21–58.
    [Google Scholar]
  69. Shi, Guanquan
    1985 Guanyu zhuci ‘de’ de jige wenti [Problems in connection with particle de ]. Yufa Yanjiu yu Tansuo [ Researches and Explorations in Chinese Grammar ], ed. by Zhongguo Yuwen Zazhishe [Editorial office of Studies of Chinese Language], Vol.31, 247–280. Beijing: Peking University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  70. Shibatani, Masayosh
    1985 Passives and Related Constructions: A Prototype Analysis. Language61.41: 821–848. doi:  10.2307/414491
    https://doi.org/10.2307/414491 [Google Scholar]
  71. Sun, Chaofen
    1996Word-Order Change and Grammaticalization in the History of Chinese. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  72. Szabolcsi, Anna
    2006 Strong vs. weak islands. The Blackwell Companion to Syntax, Vol.41, ed. by Martin Everaert & Henk van Riemsdijk , 479–531. Malden: Blackwell. doi:  10.1002/9780470996591.ch64
    https://doi.org/10.1002/9780470996591.ch64 [Google Scholar]
  73. Tang, Chih-Chen Jane
    2001 Functional projections and adverbial expressions in Chinese. Language and Linguistics2.21: 203–241.
    [Google Scholar]
  74. Tang, Ting-Chi
    1992Hanyu Cifa Jufa Si [ Studies on Chinese Morphology and Syntax IV ]. Taipei: Student Books.
    [Google Scholar]
  75. 1999Minnanyu Yufa Yanjiu Shilun [ Papers on Southern Min Syntax ]. Taipei: Student Books.
    [Google Scholar]
  76. Thompson, Sandra Annear
    1973 Resultative verb compounds in Mandarin Chinese: a case for lexical rules. Language49.21: 361–379. doi:  10.2307/412459
    https://doi.org/10.2307/412459 [Google Scholar]
  77. Tsai, Wei-Tien Dylan
    1994On Economizing the Theory of A-Bar Dependencies. Cambridge: The MIT dissertation.
    [Google Scholar]
  78. 2001 On subject specificity and theory of syntax-semantics interface. Journal of East Asian Linguistics10.21: 129–168. doi:  10.1023/A:1008321327978
    https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1008321327978 [Google Scholar]
  79. 2008 Left periphery and how-why alternations. Journal of East Asian Linguistics171: 83–115. doi:  10.1007/s10831‑008‑9021‑0
    https://doi.org/10.1007/s10831-008-9021-0 [Google Scholar]
  80. Wang, Chyan-an Arthur
    2010The Microparametric Syntax of Resultatives in Chinese Languages. New York: New York University dissertation.
    [Google Scholar]
  81. Wang, Chyan- an Arthur
    2011 A New Analysis of Resultatives in Mandarin Chinese. Paper presented at TheFifth International Conference on Formal Linguistics, December 10–12, 2011. Guangzhou: Guangdong University of Foreign Studies.
    [Google Scholar]
  82. Wang, Changsong
    2014aExploring the Interface between Syntax and Morphology – A Case Study of de in Chinese. Beijing: Beijing Language and Culture University dissertation.
    [Google Scholar]
  83. 2014b Cong beidongju kan zhe ben shu de chuban [Looking at passives sentences through zhe ben shu de chuban ]. Language and Linguistics15.21: 231–264.
    [Google Scholar]
  84. Wang, Guosheng
    1998 Kenengshi de ziju de jufa buduicheng xianxiang [On the syntactic asymmetries involved in the potential de construction]. Yuyan Yanjiu [ Studies in Language and Linguistics ] 11: 23–29.
    [Google Scholar]
  85. Wei, Pei-chuan
    2004 Jindai Hanyu nengxing dongbu jiegou zhong binyu de weizhi [Object position in verb-complement potential constructions in early Mandarin]. Language and Linguistics5.31: 663–704.
    [Google Scholar]
  86. Williams, Alexander
    2014 Causal VVs in Mandarin. The Handbook of Chinese Linguistics, ed. by C.-T. James Huang , Y.-H. Audrey Li & Andrew Simpson , 311–341. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell. doi:  10.1002/9781118584552.ch12
    https://doi.org/10.1002/9781118584552.ch12 [Google Scholar]
  87. Wu, Ching-Huei Teresa
    2004 On de/bu and the syntactic nature of resultative verbal compounding. Language and Linguistics5.11: 271–329.
    [Google Scholar]
  88. Wu, Fuxiang
    2002 Nengxing shubu jiegou suoyi [Some remarks on the potential verb-complement construction in Chinese]. Yuyan Jiaoxue yu Yanjiu [ Language Teaching and Research ] 51: 19–27.
    [Google Scholar]
  89. Wu, Xiu-Zhi Zoe
    2004Grammaticalization and Language Change in Chinese: A Formal View. London & New York: RoutledgeCurzon. 10.4324/9780203420645
    https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203420645 [Google Scholar]
  90. Xie, Zhiguo
    2012 The modal uses of de and temporal shifting in Mandarin Chinese. Journal of East Asian Linguistics21.41: 387–420. doi:  10.1007/s10831‑012‑9093‑8
    https://doi.org/10.1007/s10831-012-9093-8 [Google Scholar]
  91. Xu, Ding
    1997Functional categories in Mandarin Chinese. Leiden: Leiden University dissertation.
    [Google Scholar]
  92. Yang, Barry Chung-Yu
    2008Intervention Effects and the Covert Component of Grammar. Hsinchu: National Tsing Hua University dissertation.
    [Google Scholar]
  93. 2012 Intervention effects and wh-construals. Journal of East Asian Linguistics21.11: 43–87. doi:  10.1007/s10831‑011‑9080‑5
    https://doi.org/10.1007/s10831-011-9080-5 [Google Scholar]
  94. Yue, Jun-fa
    1984 “De” zi ju de chansheng he yanbian [On the origin and development of sentences with de]. Yuyan Yanjiu [ Studies in Language and Linguistics ] 21: 10–30.
    [Google Scholar]
  95. Zhou, Guoguang
    2002 Ertong shiyong foudingci ‘bu’ jiqi xiangguang fouding jiegou de kaocha [An investigation of the children’s use of the negative bu and the structure of negation]. Yuyan Wenzi Yingyong [ Applied Linguistics ] 41: 42–49.
    [Google Scholar]
  96. Zhu, Dexi
    1982Yufa Jiangyi [ Lecture Notes on Grammar ]. Beijing: The Commercial Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  97. Zhuang, Huibin
    2014 The prosodic history of Chinese resultatives. Language and Linguistics15.41: 575–595. doi:  10.1177/1606822X14532053
    https://doi.org/10.1177/1606822X14532053 [Google Scholar]
  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): bude; de; morphological merger; syntax-morphology interface
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