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Lee, Meng-Chen; Abraham, Werner (2020): Episodic versus generic eventualities and nominals The unified link between sentence structure and DP-structure in Chinese and German. In: Stuf-Language Typology and Universals, Vol. 73, No. 4: pp. 441-482
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Abstract

This paper proposes an analysis of the DP structure of Chinese in comparison with German and other West Germanic languages, particularly English. The analysis is linked to sentence structure, particularly event structure of the respective languages and the relation between nominal classifiers and sentential tense. Chinese is a language without nominal declension;German is not as other Indo-European languages. Among the inflectional paradigms, German has retained from earlier periods, and developed further, the coding of topicality in terms of familiarity and anaphoricity. While Chinese shares with German clause syntactic topicality, it does so purely in terms of clause-early and clause-late word order. German, by contrast, involves specific positions in the serial middle field to code referential familiarity, anaphoricity, and, above all, weak versus strong referential weight to distinguish, among other functions, specific versus unspecific reference. The categories involved in coding such properties in German are determiners and the declensional morphology of attributes ('strong' versus 'weak' inflection providing specific reference). This paper investigates the regularities of weak and strong reference in Chinese. The discussion yields insight into the structural coding that Chinese provides instead of what is encoded in German in morphological terms on adjectival attributes and in terms determiners ((in)definite articles and bare nouns). In the course, the discussion around mass versus count nouns and the role of classifiers is brought up and newly evaluated on the basis of the new referential distinctions.