Chapter published in:Interfaces in Grammar
Edited by Jianhua Hu and Haihua Pan
[Language Faculty and Beyond 15] 2019
► pp. 245–282
Focus, negation and event quantification in Chinese
How focus helps shape negation in natural language
Chinese negators, bu and mei, translated as “not” in English, are assumed to be focus-sensitive indiscriminately. In this paper, I argue that unlike bu, mei does not lexically encode a dependency on the placement of focus, due to the failure of semantic focus to override its syntactic constraint. Syntax has made mei inherently a negative existential quantifier of situations. The role of focus in mei-sentences is to provide the backgrounded event description. Material within the TP scope of mei, excluding the focus, will be structurally mapped to the background part to set up its restrictive domain, and everything within its scope to the nuclear scope. Therefore, although falling under the same category, negators do not necessarily demonstrate the same focus dependency.
Published online: 15 April 2019
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