The Linearity of Verb Copying Cleft Construction in Chinese: Semantic Underspecification and Pragmatic Enrichment


  • Moying Li Zhejiang University of Finance and Economics
  • Lian Zhang Zhejiang University of Finance and Economics



verb copying cleft construction, lexical identity effect, linearity, minimal form, frame setting


In Standard Chinese, verb doubling cleft construction (henceforth VDCC) has received little attention in the linguistic literature. Recently, Cheng and Vicente (2013) claim that VDCC has the same internal syntax as regular clefts, and two verbs stand in A-bar movement relation based on the lexical identity effect. In this paper, we argue that (1) VDCC is derived in line with the principle of linearity; (2) the first verb is a reduced minimal form acting as a topic which is pragmatically enriched via contextual information; (3) the second verb is interpretively dependent on the first verb.

Author Biography

Moying Li, Zhejiang University of Finance and Economics

Dongfang College


Ariel, Mira. (1990). Accessing Noun-Phrase Antecedents. London: Routledge.

Bastos, Ana. (2001). Fazer, eu faço! Topicalização de constituents verbais em portugues brasileiro [As for doing, I do! Topicalization of verbal constituents in Brazilian Portuguese]. M.A. thesis, Universidad Estadual de Campinas.

Brizuela, Maquela. (1999). Definiteness types in Spanish: A study of natural discourse. Ph.D. dissertation, Los Angeles: University of Southern California.

Chafe, Wallace. (1976). Givenness, contrastiveness, definiteness, subjects, topics and point of view. In Charles N. Li (ed.), Subject and Topic, 25-55. New York: Academic Press.

Chao, Yuen-ren. (1968). A Grammar of Spoken Chinese. Berkley: University of California Press.

Cheng, Lisa, L.-S. (2008). Deconstructing the shi…de construction. The Linguistic Review 25. 235-266.

Cheng, Lisa, L.-S., and Luis, Vicente. (2013). Verb doubling in Mandarin Chinese. Journal of East Asian Linguistics 22. 1-37.

De Boer, Ale. (1992). A cross-linguistic overview of VP-anaphora. In Bok-Bennema, Reineke and Roeland van Hou (eds.), Linguistics in the Netherlands, 49-60. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Frank, Stefan L., Rens Bod, and Morten H. Christiansen. (2012). How hierarchical is language use?” Proc. R. Soc. B, 279. 4522-4531.

Gutzmann, Daniel and Elena Castroviejo, Miró. (2011). The dimensions of verum. In Olivier Bonami, and Patricia Cabredo Hofherr (eds.), Empirical Issues in Syntax and semantics 8. CSSP.

Hankamer, Jorge and Ivan Sag. (1976). Deep and surface anaphora. Linguistic Inquiry, 7. 391-428.

Hawkins, John. (2004). Efficiency and Complexity in Grammars. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Höhle, Tilman N. (1992). Über verum-fokus im Deutschen. In Jacobs, Joachim (ed.), Informationsstruktur und Grammatik, 112-141, Opladen: Westdeutscher Verlag.

Huang, Chu-ren. (1992). Certainty in functional uncertainty. Journal of Chinese Linguistics 20. 247-287.

Huang, C.-T. James.(1982). Logical relations in Chinese and the theory of grammar.” Ph.D. dissertation, Mass: MIT.

Huang, C.-T. James. (1984). A Note on the Binding Theory. Linguistic Inquiry 14. 554–561.

Huang, C.-T. James., Y-H. Audrey. Li and Yafei Li. (2009). The Syntax of Chinese. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Jacobs, Joachim. (2001). The dimensions of topic-comment.” Linguistics 39. 641-681.

Kehler, Andrew and Gretory, Ward. (2004). Constrains on ellipsis and event reference. In Laurence R. Horn, and Gretory Ward (eds.), Handbook of Pragmatics, 383-403, Oxford: Blackwell.

Kempson, Ruth. (1977). Semantic Theory. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Krifka, Manfred. (2007). Basic notions of information structure. In Caroline Fery, and Manfred Krifka (eds.), The Notions of Information Structure, 13-56, Potsdam: Uniersitätsverlag Potsdam.

Li, Charles N and Sandra A. Thompson. (1976). Subject and topic: A new typology of language. In Charles N. Li (ed.), Subject and Topic, 457-489, New York: Academic Press.

Li, Charles N and Sandra A. Thompson. (1981). Mandarin Chinese: A Functional Reference Grammar. Berkley: University of California Press.

Portner, Paul and Katsuhiko Yabushita. (1998). The semantics and pragmatics of topic phrases. Linguistics and Philosophy 21. 117–157.

Prince, Ellen F. (1992). The ZPG letter: Subjects, definiteness and information-status. In Sandra Thompson, and W, Mann (eds.), Discourse Description: Diverse Analyses of a Fundraising Text, Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Romero, Maribel, (2005). Two approaches to biased yes/no questions. In Alderete, John, Chung-hye Han, and Alexei Kochetov (eds.), Proceedings of the 24thWest Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics (WCCFL), MA: Cascadilla Cascadilla Proceedings Project.

Romero,Maribel and Chung-hye Han. (2004). On negative yes/no questions. Linguistics and Philosophy, 27. 609–658.

Shi, Dingxu. (1992). The Nature of Topic Comment Constructions and Topic Chains. Ph.D. dissertation, Los Angeles: University of Southern California.

Shi, Dingxu. (2000). Topic and topic-comment constructions in Mandarin Chinese. Language, 76. 383–408.

Xu, Liejiong and Donald T. Langendoen. (1985). Topic structures in Chinese. Language 61. 1–27.

Yang, Xiaolong., and Yicheng, Wu. (2015). The linearity of topic structures in Chinese. Waiguoyu, 38. 55-63.

Zipf, George K. (1949). Human Behavior and the Principle of Least Effort. Cambridge, Mass: Addison-Wesley Press.