An experimental and distributional investigation of two ‘non-culminating accomplishments’ in Mandarin

Lewis Esposito


The result-state lexicalization behavior of Mandarin monomorphemic transitive verbs have been claimed to be homogenous, with the vast majority contributing to ‘non-culminating’ readings in accomplishment predicates. This paper presents experimental and distributional case studies of verbs expected to challenge this claim: xiu ‘fix’ and sha ‘kill’. An experiment was conducted to examine how contextual factors influence result-state interpretation, given reports of highly variable judgments for these verbs when considered a-contextually. The results suggests that while xiu NP ‘fix NP’ is a true non-culminating accomplishment, sha NP ‘kill NP’ may lexicalize a result-state culmination, contra claims in prior work. These experimental findings are supported by the distribution of the verbs in Mandarin VV compounds, which suggest that xiu ‘fix’ is a manner verb (thereby not lexicalizing result-state culmination), while sha ‘kill’ is a result verb (lexicalizing result-state culmination). This study not only highlights the benefit of considering how contextual factors influence interpretations of verbal meaning, but it could also suggest that claims of the pervasiveness of non-culminating accomplishments in Mandarin are exaggerated.


lexical semantics; verbs; non-culminating accomplishments; resultatives; state change; pragmatics; Mandarin

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