Challenges of Local and Long-distance Binding of Chinese Reflexives: Syntactic Relations, Semantic Co-reference, and Pragmatic Logophoricity

Activity: Talk or presentationInvited talkResearch


Mandarin Chinese has two 3rd-person singular reflexives, namely, taziji (complex reflexive) and ziji (simplex reflexive). Since Tang (1989), much attention has been drawn to Chinese reflexives, in particular, the simplex reflexive ziji owing to its capacity for long-distance binding, which seems to raise problems for the locality requirements of the binding theory (Chomsky, 1981). Although many theoretical solutions have been proposed throughout the past few decades (e.g., Huang & Tang, 1991; Xue, Pollard & Sag, 1994; Cole & Wang, 1996; Huang & Liu, 2001; Pan, 2001; Pan & Hu, 2003; Giblin, 2016; Charnavel, Huang, Cole & Hermon, 2017; Sperlich, 2019), Chinese anaphoric resolution remains a fascinating topic up to the present day (e.g., Reuland, Wong & Everaert, 2020; Sperlich, 2020; Ke & Pires, 2021).

In the first half of the talk, I will focus on the discussion of empirical data, enabling us to identify properties of Chinese reflexives without subscribing to one particular theoretical framework. These properties include local vs long-distance binding, subject orientation, animacy requirements, subcommand, blocking effects, logophoricity, etc. Given that Chinese binding is a complicated puzzle, even the clarification of its linguistic properties is not without controversy. Thus, where appropriate, I will point out the relevant debates, and how cross-linguistic typological research on adnominal possession and logophoricity may shed light on the issues.

The second half of the talk provides a formal model for the empirical data within the framework of Lexical-Functional Grammar (Bresnan, Asudeh, Toivonen & Wechsler, 2015; Dalrymple, Lowe, Mycock, 2019). In LFG, binding relations are stated with reference to the syntactic structure of dependency relations (f-structure), rather than the phrasal structure (c-structure); binding constraints are specified lexically, rather than on a universal or per-language basis (Dalrymple, 1993, 2015). As binding relations are semantic in nature in the sense that they deal with the co-reference between a reflexive and its antecedent, the formulation of binding constraints involves projection from the f-structure to the semantic structure (s-structure) in LFG’s parallel-correspondence architecture. My model of anaphoric resolution is further augmented by the integration of logophoric binding.

Through the lens of Mandarin Chinese, this talk presents an alternative theory for modelling binding relations in LFG terms, instead of following the dominant Minimalist approaches, and opens up a cross-theoretical dialogue.
Period23 Mar 2022
Held atThe University of Debrecen, Hungary


  • binding
  • reflexive
  • anaphor
  • logophor
  • Chinese
  • Lexical-Functional Grammar