Revisiting the restrictive/appositive distinction in Mandarin relative clauses: The confound of demonstratives

Yenan Sun, Jackie Yan-ki Lai


This paper revisits the often-claimed correlation between the restrictive/appositive distinction in Mandarin relative clauses (RC) and their pre-/post-demonstrative position (Chao 1968; Huang 1998; Lin 2003 a.o.). We show that different uses of the demonstrative should be controlled for in establishing the correlation, a novel perspective which reconciles the conflicting claims noted in the literature. In particular, we argue that (i) only when the demonstrative is used deictically, the pre-/post-demonstrative position makes a difference such that pre-demonstrative RCs can only be appositive while post-demonstrative RCs can be either appositive or restrictive; and (ii) when the demonstrative is used anaphorically, the position of RCs does not determine its appositive/restrictive status. The new patterns can be accounted for by extending some analyses of strong definites (Elbourne 2005; Schwarz 2009; Jenks 2018) to Mandarin demonstratives, recognizing a structural distinction between the deictic use and the anaphoric use. The current proposal has implications for studies on demonstratives.


Mandarin relative clauses; demonstratives; restrictive; appositive

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Copyright (c) 2019 Yenan Sun, Jackie Yan-ki Lai

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