A Constraint-based Approach to Anaphoric and Logophoric Binding in Mandarin Chinese and Cantonese

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This paper proposes an LFG constraint-based approach to binding in Mandarin Chinese and Cantonese. We illustrate the power of LFG’s f-structure in developing a formal model which is, in essence, a unifying proposal integrating syntactic anaphoric binding with pragmatically-rooted but grammaticised logophoric binding. The anaphoric-binding component of our model resolves the local binding of complex reflexives and that of simplex reflexives, whereas the logophoric-binding component handles the long-distance binding of simplex reflexives. Our view that Chinese binding is best explained by a dual system encompassing syntactic (anaphoric) and pragmatic (logophoric) aspects is in line with Huang and Liu (2001). While it is not easy for a syntactic theory to accommodate logophoric binding, the LFG formalism has a high degree of flexibility, allowing it to model both types of binding while maintaining its formal, mathematical rigour. Our constraint-based proposal offers an alternative binding theory in response to recent Minimalist proposals on Chinese binding (e.g., Giblin, 2016; Reuland, Wong & Everaert, 2020), opening up a cross-theoretical dialogue. We establish the notion of grammaticised logophoricity in Chinese binding in connection with crosslinguistic studies. Empirically, we examine a range of data to clarify properties of Chinese reflexives and settle past debates, in particular, the animacy debate in relation to typological research on adnominal possession. The comparison between Mandarin Chinese and Cantonese contributes to the comparative study of binding phenomena in Sinitic languages.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the LFG’21 Conference
EditorsMiriam Butt, Jamie Y. Findlay, Ida Toivonen
Place of PublicationStanford, CA
PublisherCSLI Publications, Stanford University
Number of pages222
ISBN (Electronic)1098-6782
ISBN (Print)1098-6782
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2021

Publication series

NameLFG Online Proceedings
PublisherCSLI Publications, Stanford University
ISSN (Print)1098-6782
ISSN (Electronic)1098-6782


  • binding
  • anaphor
  • logophor
  • reflexive
  • Chinese
  • Cantonese
  • adnominal possession
  • Lexical-Functional Grammar


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