Chapter published in:New Explorations in Chinese Theoretical Syntax: Studies in honor of Yen-Hui Audrey Li
Edited by Andrew Simpson
[Linguistik Aktuell/Linguistics Today 272] 2022
► pp. 165–192
Modal movement licensed by focus
This paper investigates the high position of root modals (such as keyi ‘may’) in Chinese, and its interaction with focus interpretations. We address a long-standing puzzle concerning their position: A-not-A questions appear to exceptionally license an otherwise unavailable high position of root modals preceding subjects and/or topics. Upon closer examination, we observe that (i) A-not-A questions do not always license the high position of root modals and that (ii) the position of focus plays a crucial role in licensing high modals. We propose that root modals undergo head movement across a focused element to the high position, and this movement is constrained by a focus version of output economy.
- 2.High root modals and focus
- 2.1Focus interpretations
- 2.2A-not-A questions and polarity questions
- 3.Previous approaches to high root modals
- 3.1Base generation approaches
- 3.2The interpretation of high root modals
- 4.A movement approach
- 4.1Modal movement and the calculation of the focus set
- 4.2A-not-A questions and focus reading
Published online: 13 April 2022
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