KACL Lecture Series

#20 : T.-H. Jonah Lin
Professor, Graduate Institute of Linguistics, National Tsing Hua University
Title: Coordination and Subordination: On the Mapping of Event Structure to Phrase Structure
Date : February 7, 2003, 15:30--
Place : Room 1411, ground floor of Bldg 14, Kobe Shoin Women's University.

This work considers the question of how event structure is mapped to phrase structure, with a special focus on the coordination of agentive verbs in Ancient Chinese and its extinction in history toward Modern Chinese. Researchers have noted that the decline of the coordination of verbal elements in Ancient Chinese has a direct bearing on the rise of the resultative construction in Modern Chinese (e.g. Wang 1958, T. Mei 1991). This work argues that the key mechanism that links the two is the pressure from the event structure to the effect that an individual predicate denotes an individual event argument, and vice versa. Ancient Chinese employs coordination as a major means for structure building, and, as a result, multiple adjunctions of predicates on a main predicate is freely permitted, a grammatical mechanism that gives rise to coordination of agentive verbs. However, the pressure for the bi-uniqueness of the predicate and the event argument forces the language to abandon multiple adjunctions of predicates as a legitimate means for structure building, which paves the way for the rise of the resultative structure, a construction that crucially depends on complementation of predicates (cf. Lin 2001). This analysis, if correct, makes certain empirical predictions. In particular, it is predicted that, if a language employs coordination (or multiple adjunctions) as the major means for structure building, each conjunct (or adjunct) represents an independent event argument; and if a language permits multiple predication of an individual event argument in a sentence, the language must employ complementation as the major means for structure building. This prediction can be put to test with a number of languages, such as the Austranesian languages in Taiwan (which make extensive use or coordination for structure building) and Japanese. It appears that the analysis proposed in this work can receive at least partial support from these languages. For example, Japanese (and Korean) permits verbal compounds consisting of two agentive verbs (Kageyama 1993), on a par with Ancient Chinese. There have been proposals that Japanese employs adjunction as a major means for structure building (Lin 2001). As predicted, the adjunction nature of the phrase structure is correlated with the permissibility of coordination of agentive verbs in Japanese. To the extent that the predictions are borne out, this analysis may bring a new perspective into the theory of phrase structure. A current line of thought in grammatical theory is that the phrase structure is built on the basis of a set of elementary semantic principles (Hale and Keyser 1993). In view of the analysis proposed in this work, the theory of phrase structure must be enriched with much more ingredients from the theory of event structure (cf. Kratzer 1996), and, furthermore, the event structure and the phrase structure in a language must be correlated with each other in a determinant way (Huang 1997, Lin 2001).

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