The Syntax of “NP zhi (之) VP” in Old Chinese

Visiting Scholar Talks

Dec 9, 2021 | 8:30 PM

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Speaker

Mengmeng Yang | Associate Research Professor, Institute of Linguistics, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences; HYI Visiting Scholar, 2021-22

Chair/Discussant

C.-T. James Huang | Professor of Linguistics, Harvard University

Co-sponsored with the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies

Held via Zoom – registration required: https://harvard.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJEvdeGrqTguH9xse7Os4eq446EqAXSItXWI

This talk focuses on the syntax of the “NP zhi VP” (主之谓) structure (eg. 皮之不存,毛将安附?), which is one of the most typical and frequently used structures in Old Chinese. It is tentatively proposed that zhi, as a functional head, functions as a nonfinite INFL and projects a nonfinite clause in the form of “NP zhi VP”. According to this analysis, the syntactic difference between “NP zhi VP” and the canonical “NP VP” clause without zhi lies in the fact that the former is nonfinite whereas the latter is finite. If this analysis is on the right track, “NP zhi VP” and its counterparts like “NP VP” in Old Chinese, “NP de VP” (“NP 的 VP”) in Contemporary Chinese, as well as the gerundive V-ing structure and to-infinitive in English, can all be characterized as different instantiations of the abstract “NP F VP” structure (F=functional category). They differ from each other only in different values of F.

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