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Chinese Sentence-Initial Indefinites: What Corpora Reveal

Anna Morbiato    Università Ca’ Foscari Venezia, Italia; The University of Sydney, Australia    

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abstract

While the sentence-initial position in Chinese is generally related to givenness/definiteness, instances of informationally new or indefinite sentence-initial nps may be found in language in use. This paper systematically explores the phenomenon of sentence-initial indefinites (SIIs), their statistical relevance, and the interaction with features typically connected to linear order, such as animacy or locatability. Results of a quantitative and qualitative analysis conducted on three major big-size, generalised corpora show that SIIs in Chinese are not only possible, but also statistically relevant. Animacy and locatability are found to play a key role in increasing SIIs acceptability. Finally, data reveal a new pattern featuring SIIs with proper nouns.

Accepted
Aug. 18, 2020
Submitted
May 11, 2020
Language
EN
ISBN (PRINT)
978-88-6969-407-3
ISBN (EBOOK)
978-88-6969-406-6

Keywords: Information structureAnimacySentence-initial indefinites (SIIs)Qualitative analysisChineseCorpus studyQuantitative analysis

Copyright: © 2020 Anna Morbiato. This is an open-access work distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction is permitted, provided that the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. The license allows for commercial use. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.