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A cognitive approach to multi-verb constructions in Mandarin Chinese Open Access


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Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Yin, Hui
Supervisor and department
Sally A. Rice, Linguistics
John Newman, Linguistics
Examining committee member and department
Tsuyoshi Ono, East Asian Studies
David Beck, Linguistics
Hongyin Tao, Asian Languages and Cultures, University of California, Los Angeles
Department of Linguistics

Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
This dissertation addresses different kinds of Mandarin multi-verb constructions (MVCs), seeking to solve a long-standing problem in Chinese linguistics: namely, how to account for a plethora of constructions, including a subset called serial verb constructions. In most previous studies, only a limited number of MVCs have been examined by any one researcher. By contrast, this dissertation aims to provide a unified account of all types of Mandarin MVCs. I argue such a goal can be achieved through a usage-based cognitive approach. By proposing that MVCs display varying degrees of event integration, my analysis can differentiate meaningfully among distinct kinds of MVCs. Based on the form-meaning pairing criterion, I argue that MVCs of different types can be localized along portions of a continuum of event integration. This study mines the Lancaster Corpus of Mandarin Chinese for MVCs. The corpus results show there is lexical restrictedness as measured by verb type/token ratios in certain MVCs. The continuum of type/token ratios is argued to correlate with the continuum of event integration of MVCs, with lower ratios correlating with higher degrees of event integration and with higher ratios correlating with lower degrees of event integration. The corpus data indicate there is a strong interaction between lexical items and construction types. Certain verbs are easily attracted to a particular construction or even a particular verb position. Also, the corpus results reflect an asymmetry in MVCs in that verbs in one position may be more restricted. The position-specific patterns of type/token frequency largely reveal the event structures underlying particular MVCs. Generally, the verb position having a higher type/token ratio represents a core phase. The corpus results show the mutual attraction of verbs and constructions, the strong tendency to use MVCs for encoding unitary albeit complex events, and the link between lexical restrictedness and event integration as evidenced by the large variety of types of MVCs in Mandarin. The findings support a usage-based model where constructions are understood to be conventionalized units, and fixed idiomatic expressions are considered to be as important to the expressive inventory of the language as are open or fully productive syntactic structures.
License granted by Hui Yin ( on 2010-09-24T22:12:24Z (GMT): Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of the above terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis, and except as herein provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
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File title: A Cognitive Approach to Multi-Verb Constructions in Mandarin Chinese
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