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Transitive psych-predicates In Chinese

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In Chinese languages, verbs appear to have a lot of freedom in taking non-thematic objects, i.e., locative, temporal, instrumental and reason objects. Huang (2006) attributes this freedom to the high degree of analyticity: lexical verbs in Chinese are not conflated in the lexical structure, and this allows them to have more freedom in the type of objects they take. Aside from these “non-canonical objects” (a term borrowed from Barrie and Li to appear), Chinese languages also have dummy objects (for example with unergative verbs such as run). In both cases, there is already an object slot (either in narrow syntax or in lexical syntax).

In this paper, I discuss another set of data, involving psych-predicates (such as worry and happy), which adds to the picture that Chinese verbs have a lot of freedom in taking an object. However, these are cases that cannot be said to have an original object slot.

I will first present an analysis that exploits the presence of a high applicative projection. This will be followed with a discussion of the difference between Cantonese and Mandarin, showing that Cantonese always takes the head-movement option while Mandarin does not. This challenges the view that the high degree of analyticity is connected to the lack of verb movement (as in Holmberg and Roberts 2010), as both Cantonese and Mandarin are “high-analyticity” languages.

This talk is part of the Cambridge Linguistics Forum series.

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