Most of the clausal spine in Mandarin Chinese is rigidly head-initial, with the apparent exception of the set of sentence-final particles (SFPs). Previous work has analyzed SFPs as being head-final heads in the CP domain above a head-initial TP—an important apparent counterexample to Biberauer, Holmberg, and Roberts’ "Final Over Final Constraint." I contribute new data on the semantic scope of SFPs, leading to the conclusion that some SFPs must be lower in the clause, in a position that I identify with the lower phase edge, traditionally identified with vP. This work is important not only for our understanding of Chinese clause structure, but also for our understanding of the Final-over-Final Constraint and its apparent exceptions.

In more recent work in collaboration with students in the Singapore Language Lab, I am extending this work to sentence-final particles in Singlish and other Chinese languages of Singapore. (The choice of referent for the “Chinese language” that licenses the use of “other” is deliberately vague.) We have found that Southern Min (Hokkien, Hainanese) and Cantonese have low SFPs at the lower phase edge, similar to Mandarin, but the behavior of their cognate sentence-final already and only in Singlish differ.

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