Semantics of Chinese Questions: An Interface Approach, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Semantics of Chinese Questions

An Interface Approach, 1st Edition

By Hongyuan Dong


180 pages

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Hardback: 9781138496484
pub: 2018-12-13
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pub: 2018-12-07
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Semantics of Chinese Questions is the first major study of Chinese questions, especially wh-questions, within the framework of Alternative Semantics.

It takes an interface approach to study the syntax, semantics, and phonology of questions and proposes a phonological scope-marking strategy in Chinese questions, based upon experimental data. It also incorporates historical linguistic data regarding the grammaticalization of sentence-final particles such as –ne and –ma to study the formal diachronic semantics of questions. Primarily suitable for scholars in the field of Chinese linguistics, this book makes new theoretical contributions to the study of questions.

Table of Contents

List of illustrations



List of symbols

List of abbreviations

Chapter 1 Introduction

    1. Main ideas
    2. Questions and Chinese questions
    3. The meaning of questions
    4. Inquisitive semantics
    5. Chapter overview

Chapter 2 LF Movement and Binding in Chinese Questions

2.1 Chinese wh-in-situ

2.2 The LF movement theory

2.3 The binding theory

2.4 The status of the particle –ne

2.5 The diachronic semantics of the particle –ne

Chapter 3 Alternative Semantics of Questions in Chinese

3.1 The alternative semantics theory

3.2 Manner and causal wh-questions

3.3 Verbal "zenme" questions

3.4 A-not-A questions

3.5 Alternative questions

3.6 Polar questions

3.7 The grammaticalization of the particle –ma

3.8 Alternative semantics and inquisitive semantics

Chapter 4 Scope Marking of Questions by Phonological Prominence

4.1 Scope marking of questions phonologically in Chinese

4.2 Experimental data for the scope-marking strategy

4.3 Cross-linguistic comparisons of scope marking of wh-questions

4.4 Focus and wh-pronouns

4.5 Scope isomorphism of focus and its computational derivation

Chapter 5 Revisiting the Argument–Adjunct Asymmetry

5.1 Argument–adjunct asymmetry of Chinese wh-in-situ

5.2 The nominal–adverbial asymmetry

5.3 Operator movement and its problems

5.4 A correlational account of island sensitivity

5.5 A phonological reason for adjoining to scope positions

5.6 Island constraints of A-not-A questions explained

Chapter 6 A Distributional Account of Existential Wh-indefinites

6.1 Distributions of interrogative and existential wh-indefinites

6.2 Alternative semantics and existential readings of wh-indefinites

6.3 Syntactic and phonological factors that disfavor existential readings

6.4 Pragmatic reasoning and licensors of existential readings

6.5 Scope variability of Chinese existential wh-indefinites

Chapter 7 Concluding Remarks

7.1 Theoretical contributions of the interface approach

7.2 Limitations and further research directions




About the Author


Hongyuan Dong is Assistant Professor of Chinese Language and Linguistics in the Department of East Asian Languages & Literatures at the George Washington University.

About the Series

Routledge Studies in Chinese Linguistics

Routledge Studies in Chinese Linguistics is a state-of-the-art book series showcasing high quality research on the linguistics of the Chinese language. Titles in the series range from seminal classics to cutting edge studies in the field, and comprise both research monographs and edited volumes.

Contributions are welcomed from all areas of linguistic study applied to the Chinese language, including but not limited to phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, pragmatics, discourse analysis, stylistics, sociolinguistics, language and communication, historical linguistics, dialectology, language acquisition, language pedagogy, corpus linguistics, bilingualism and Chinese for specific purposes, etc.

Published in English, titles in the series will be of great interest to postgraduate students and scholars in the fields of Chinese language and linguistics.

If you have a book proposal or idea in mind that might be suitable for the series, please contact the series editor Hongming Zhang of the University of Wisconsin-Madison ( For more information on submitting a proposal to Routledge, please visit

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