A cognitive approach to multi-verb constructions in Mandarin Chinese

  • Author / Creator
    Yin, Hui
  • 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.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2010
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.