Erlewine, Michael Yoshitaka, 2022. “Mandarin exhaustive focus shì and the syntax of discourse congruence.”
Particles in German, English, and beyond, pages 323–354. DOI: 10.1075/slcs.224.12erl

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.