LSCHL 11: Noun Classifiers: a View from Cantonese

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Noun Classifiers: a View from Cantonese

Patrizia Pacioni
SOAS, London
This work provides a wide description of Cantonese noun classifiers occurrences peculiar to Cantonese and not found in Mandarin. Namely, nouns and classifiers [CL-N], the [ZOENG-CL-NV] construction, classifiers used in possessive constructions [N-CL-N] and in relative clauses. It argues that classifiers encode specificity based on a syntactic-semantic interface. A four-way semantic distinction: [+/-individuation] and [+/-identification] is mapped onto a Specificity Phrase [SpecifP]. Such [+/-individuation] and [+/-identification] distinction can also capture occurrences of other nominal modifiers in Cantonese like [DI-N] and [GE-N]. To further support such specificity account, the second part of this work deals with occurrences where classifiers are not found in Cantonese: bare nouns resulting in generic and kind readings, non-restrictive relative clauses, and objects of verb-object compounds. Finally, it discusses some apparent non-specific readings of [CLN] combinations: occurrences where we can have either specific or non-specific readings, despite the presence of a classifier. Such constructions occur in contexts like modals, futures and conditionals that are opacity-triggering contexts. These types of modals and tenses are known to affect the semantic transparency of the relevant noun and to create opacity since they can set up a mismatch between the knowledge of the speaker and the predication about external reality.
ISBN 9783862889501. LINCOM Studies in Chinese Linguistics 11. 211pp. 2018.

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