Erlewine, Michael Yoshitaka, forthcoming. “Mandarin exhaustive focus shì and the syntax of discourse congruence.”
Particles in German, English, and beyond.

This paper describes three constraints that together govern the distribution of the exhaustive focus marker shì in Mandarin Chinese. First, I argue that shì is a sentential focus particle that is subject to a requirement to adjoin as low as possible within its clause or phase. Second, I show that shì requires a congruent Question Under Discussion (QUD) and demonstrate the effects of this semantic constraint on the distribution of shì. Third and finally, I show that there are certain reduced clauses where shì is completely disallowed, although other focus particles such as ‘only’ may appear. I propose that this last restriction is a particular proposal for the syntax/semantics of discourse congruence: reference to a QUD — required by the semantics of shì — is mediated by a functional head in the high CP periphery. Shì is thus unavailable in reduced clauses which do not project this high functional layer.