Erlewine, Michael Yoshitaka, 2017.
“Low sentence-final particles in Mandarin Chinese and the Final-over-Final Constraint.”
Journal of East Asian Linguistics 26:1, pages 37–75. DOI: 10.1007/s10831-016-9150-9
Mandarin Chinese clausal syntax can be described as strictly head-initial, with the exception of certain “particles” which are linearized at the end of the clause. Previous work on these sentence-final particles (SFPs) has assumed that all SFPs are very high, in the CP periphery. In this paper I show that a subset of SFPs are in a lower, clause-medial position, based on the scopal interaction of these SFPs with negation, modals, quantificational subjects, and alternative question disjunction. I identify this position as coinciding with the edge of the lower phase, traditionally identified as vP.
As SFPs are head-final heads with head-initial complements, they have been discussed as an important apparent exception to the Final-over-Final Constraint (FOFC), a proposed universal on structure-building and linearization. The existence of exceptions to FOFC in a clause-medial position in addition to the CP edge motivates the view that FOFC holds only within individual Spell-Out domains.