TOWARD A UNITARY ACCOUNT OF DIVERSE SHI CONSTRUCTIONS IN MANDARIN CHINESE
Wenshan Li/ South West University
The morpheme shi (the fourth tone) in Mandarin has four major uses: as a copula verb, a verum focus marker and an associate of argument/adjunct focus, and it is also involved in elliptical sentences. These uses have been well-observed in the literature, and many previous attempts have been made to provide a unitary theoretical characterization of these uses. In this paper, a revisit is paid to these uses of shi and it is argued that some of the latest unitary theoretical accounts of this morpheme are problematic. A novel unitary theoretical account of these uses is formulated from a parsing perspective in the framework of Dynamic Syntax, wherein sentences are viewed as left-to-right word-by-word monotonic processes of constructing propositions. It is proposed that shi always contributes a predicate of identity relation which combines with a corresponding formula of some logical type. Whether the presence of shi in a sentence gives rise to pragmatic effects or not depends on shi and the syntactic properties of the expression following shi.
Key words: shi, copula, focus marker, Dynamic Syntax