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How Subjective Is the Subject?

A Fresh Look at Grammatical Relations in Mandarin Chinese

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



This article re-examines the issue of grammatical relations in Mandarin Chinese in light of the results of recent large-scale typological research on grammatical relations (henceforth GRs) worldwide. Specifically, it discusses three syntactic operations and constructions that are cross-linguistically relevant to the definition of grammatical relations, namely relativisation, reflexivisation, and quantifier float. The study adopts a strictly language-internal typological approach and avails itself of natural linguistic data or sentences sanity-checked by native speakers. The aim of this paper is twofold: first, it explores the hypothesis that, in line with various other languages, GRs in Mandarin Chinese are construction-specific. Second, it proposes an alternative approach capable of explaining the conflicting evidence often pointed out in the literature on GRs and subjecthood in Mandarin Chinese.

June 25, 2018
March 2, 2018
Jan. 16, 2018

Keywords: Argument selectorsMandarin ChineseReflexivisationGrammatical relationsQuantifier float

Copyright: © 2018 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.