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Auteur: Po-jen HSIEH

Temporal Measure Phrase in Chinese: A DegvP Analysis

Abstract/Résumé: The purpose of this paper is two-fold: first, I argue that the strings yixia and yihuier ‘for a while’ can be temporal verbal measure phrases in Chinese. Following Morzycki (2006), I posited that measure phrase situated in [Spec, DegvP]. Second, I show that the DegvP along with its VP complement denotes an action event, where a higher projection of light verb DO is required to introduce an external argument “doer” (Huang, 1997; Lin, 2001). The V-to-v movement for the purpose of licensing external argument derives surface word order. The semantics of yixia has been extensively studied by Liu et al. (2001) and among others. It is generally agreed that yixia can denote one time of an action, a short period of an action, or the pragmatic use as a downtoner. The semantics of yihuier, by contrast, is rather straightforward, meaning “a short period of an action”. In this paper, I focus on the temporal measure interpretation and demonstrate how the syntactic derivation is done. In (1) and (2), the strings yixia and yihuier, prima facie, denote a measuring interpretation of the action events regarding the temporal properties. (1) Zhangsan kan le yixia/yihuier na-ben shu. Zhangsan read PERF awhile that-CL book ‘Zhangsan read the book for a while/ for a while.’ (2) Zhangsan jiao le Lisi yixia/yihuier yingwen. Zhangsan teach PERF Lisi awhile English ‘Zhangsan taught Lisi English for a while.’ There seems to be an odd word order in (1) and (2), however. Given the fact that a nominal or verbal modifier always precedes its head (noun and verb respectively) in Chinese, one might consider the strings yixia and yihuier behave as an adjective phrase. However, this possibility should be rejected since the noun phrase by itself does not have any event-type temporal properties to be measured or modified. The prima facie word order also lends further support to reject the possibility of being a nominal modifier (cf. *pianyide naben shu). Likewise, the possibility of yixia and yihuier being adverb is excluded by the fact that the V- and VP-modifying adverbs always superficially precede the verbs in Chinese. I argue that yixia and yihuier in Chinese are verbal measure phrases situated in [Spec, DegvP]. The DegvP c(ategorial)-selects a VP as complement and functions to modify the entire VP concerning temporal properties, viz. “doing something for a while”. The eventuality of action, denoted by DegvP, is introduced by the event predicate “light verb DO”. The surface word order is derived by V-to-v movement. (3) and (4) schematize the underlying structures of (1) and (2) respectively. (3) Zhangsan [vP v [DegvP [yixia/yihuier] [Degv’ [Degv Ø] [VP kan shu]]]] (4) Zhangsan [vP v [vP [NP Lisi] v [DegvP [yixia/yihuier] [Degv’ [Degv Ø] [VP jiao yingwen]]]]]