Mandarin overt wh-fronting as focus movement
Keywords:wh-fronting, focus, contrast, mirativity, exhaustivity, Mandarin Chinese
AbstractThis study reexamines the syntactic encoding of information structure embodied by Mandarin overt wh-fronting questions. The sentence patterns that this paper is concerned with are wh-questions containing one or more fronted wh-phrases surfacing in (i) a clause-initial position (in root or non-root contexts) or (ii) a position immediately following a topicalized subject (also in root or non-root contexts). Departing from previous literature that obscures the exhaustifying effect exerted by a clause-initial shi ‘be’, I propose a more fine-grained classification of the focus interpretations of this type of question: a bare wh-fronting question coerces a plain (non-exhaustive) contrastive focus or a mirative focus reading (when the wh-phrase is prosodically marked) of the wh-variable, and shi-marked wh-fronting questions are shown to enforce an exhaustive focus in the answer. These three types of focus-associated interpretations are treated as conventional implicatures following Bianchi et al. (2015).
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