Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Wh -quantification in Vietnamese
by Tran, Thuan, Ph.D., University of Delaware, 2009, 273; 3344072
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation looks at the dual lives of wh-phrases in Vietnamese, namely their syntax-semantic behavior in interrogative and non-interrogative contexts. It is a common idea, since Nishigauchi (1986), and Cheng (1991), that wh-phrases are variables without any quantificational force, but obtain their interpretations from their binders. However, I argue that Hamblin (1973) semantics as revived by Kratzer &Shimoyama (2002) (henceforth neo-Hamblin semantics) is more plausible in that it allows us to maintain a uniform denotation of wh-phrases, and, at the same time to account for their apparent various quantificational interpretations.

Chapter I presents a brief review of quantification theories and wh-quantification in Vietnamese.

Chapter II is concerned with Vietnamese syntax. In this chapter, I investigate Vietnamese nominal and clausal structures and various topics in the nominal and clausal domains. Particularly, I am concerned with nominal and clausal structures of Vietnamese, aspect and tense particles, and sentential final particles. I also examine various operations such as topicalization, relativization, and scopal interaction between negation and quantification operators. This chapter serves as a basic preparation for the discussion in the following chapters.

Chapter III explores one aspect of the non-interrogative life of wh-phrases, namely when they obtain universal interpretations. When a wh-phrase associates locally or non-locally with cũng, a focus sensitive particle, a universal interpretation arises. I propose that in local cases this focus sensitive particle is head of a Focus Phrase in overt syntax that requires a focused element in its Spec. The focus particle is a universal quantifier that takes a propositional alternative set as its argument, which yields a universal interpretation. I argue that the non-local association between a wh-phrase and this particle is only apparent given that this particle is not obligatory and its presence adds a concessive flavor. I therefore propose that a universal interpretation in non-local contexts derives from a covert universal quantifier over situations.

Chapter IV continues with the non-interrogative life of wh-phrases with a discussion of existential interpretations of wh-phrases. I hold that existential interpretations arise from the existential closure by alternative set-taking operators. The availability of these operators is subject to licensing. The requirement that a licensor must c-command its licensee, but does not need to be clause-mate with it, fits into the picture of neo-Hamblin semantics. In addition, a wh-phrase can form a constituent with a particle. This constituent does not need licensing and can take any scope. I propose that the existential interpretation of this constituent is derived from the existential closure of a choice function variable introduced by the particle.

Chapter V looks into the interrogative life of wh-phrases. Wh-questions in Vietnamese employ two strategies: LF movement and non-movement. LF movement is required by the Hamblin interpretative mechanism: A wh-phrase must undergo LF movement to Spec, CP to stop the alternative set introduced by the wh-phrase from expanding. When a question operator is available, namely, when it is licensed by a wh-particle, no movement is needed: The propositional alternative set is captured by this operator, through which a question reading obtains.

Chapter VI summarizes the main points in the five chapters and indicates what this dissertation contributes to the field. I hold that it is universal that wh-phrases denote sets of in individual alternatives. Their quantificational forces derive from the operators that capture alternative sets. Languages differ with respect to what type of operators is used. With respect to wh-questions we propose that overt movement is purely syntactic, and it is universal that wh-in-situ languages do not employ covert movement. The covert movement in Vietnamese is language specific. Finally, I offer an account for the island effects in Vietnamese from the perspective of language acquisition.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Bruening, Benjamin
Commitee: Hermon, Gabriell, Lasnik, Howark, Tomioka, Satoshi
School: University of Delaware
Department: Department of Linguistics
School Location: United States -- Delaware
Source: DAI-A 70/01, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Linguistics, Modern language
Keywords: Alternative set, Island, Operator, Quantification, Vietnamese, Wh-indefinites
Publication Number: 3344072
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