A Copula Analysis of shì in Chinese Cleft Sentences

Fangqiong Zhan, PhD student, EALC,Stanford University

Please RSVP to by Friday, February 3rd if you plan on attending this meeting. Dinner will be provided in the second half of the workshop.

We would like to invite you to join us for the twenty-first meeting of the East Asian Studies Workshop, sponsored by the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures.

In this meeting, Fangqiong Zhan (PhD student, EALC) will give a mock job talk titled  “A Copula Analysis of shì in Chinese Cleft Sentences”.

This paper, based on a cross-linguistic understanding of the concepts of ‘copula’ and ‘Cleft,’ argues that, in spite of its being a defective predicate maker, the modern Chinese shì in a cleft sentence remains a copula verb. According to Construction Grammar, a copular construction can be understood as a form/meaning pair that entails a proposition with the semantics of specificational or predicational. We propose that the Chinese Cleft (cleft or pseudo-cleft included) denotes the canonical specificational meaning with two NPs representing a restricted set entering into a class-member relationship with a referential expression. The Cleft construction, marking a contrastive focus, can be schematized as [NP [shi […(de)]].  Some linguists’ treatment of shì as an adverb in cleft sentences fails to explain why shì can co-occur with a deletable nominalizer de. With a copula treatment of shì, the presence of de can be adequately explained as a nominalizer to preserve a specificational [NP [COP NP]] structure. Therefore, the Chinese Cleft with a nominalization structure functions to signal, instead of a transitory process that an adverbial hypothesis implies, a non-transitory state.

Monday, February 06, 2012 | 4:30 pm — 6:30 pm
Building 250 - Room 111 EALC Library

Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures