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.
“Sentence-final particles at the vP phase edge.”
Proceedings of the 25th North American Conference of Chinese Linguistics (NACCL 25).
“Low sentence-final particles in Mandarin Chinese and the Final-over-Final Constraint.”
Journal of East Asian Linguistics 26:1, pages 37–75.
“The locus of Mandarin sentence-final particles and the Final-over-Final Constraint.”
Presented at the Workshop on Word Order of Heads, Chinese University of Hong Kong.
“Sentence-final only and the interpretation of focus in Mandarin Chinese.”
The Proceedings of the 22nd North American Conference of Chinese Linguistics (NACCL 22) and the 18th Annual Meeting of the International Association of Chinese Linguistics (IACL 18), pages 18–35.
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.
“A syntactic universal in a contact language: The story of Singlish already.”
Manuscript, National University of Singapore.