Debate persists over whether Mandarin Chinese sentences exhibit a syntactically represented albeit phonologically null Tense projection. In a recent paper, Lin (Syntax 18:320–342, 2015) argues for the positive view. The argument is based on the premise that Mandarin clauses exhibit finite/nonfinite contrasts and that finiteness is a property of Tense. In this paper, I argue that the contrasts identified by Lin can all be adequately accounted for without appealing to Tense. The primary conclusion then is that finiteness contrasts do not constitute evidence for Tense in Mandarin. A secondary conclusion is that Mandarin can nonetheless be said to exhibit a finite/nonfinite distinction, but only if ‘finiteness’ is construed broadly as a cluster of properties that enable a clause to stand alone as a syntactically unembedded assertion. Phenomena considered in making this argument include both those discussed by Lin (object fronting, wide scope of object-position quantifiers, and a scopal interaction between modals and aspect) as well as the syntax of subject position and the grammar of control.
Journal of East Asian Linguistics – Springer Journals
Published: Jul 27, 2017
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