Quello che i cinesi non dicono
The non-specification of linguistic elements is a pervasive phenomenon in Mandarin Chinese, especially in its colloquial register. Despite its lack in inflectional morphology signaling the roles of participants in the clause, NP-like elements bearing a generic value or inferable from the linguistic/situational context are often left unspecified. This article aims at exploring the function-to-form mapping of some major non-specification forms, suggesting that they shall be considered linguistic devices encoding specific meanings. Moreover, it shows how unspecified forms are not always equivalent to their corresponding overt forms, and cannot always be analyzed as anaphors or ellipses (i.e. NP deletion). Lastly, it suggests that looking at overt linguistic patterns alone does not offer sufficient cues for the correct interpretation of referents: inference abilities play a vital role in unspecified NPs resolution, and shall be considered as core skills to be developed by Chinese L2 students.