Serial Verb Constructions in Mandarin Chinese and Jinjiang Southern Min

  • Ying Fan

Student thesis: Phd


This study identifies two syntactically distinguishable types of Serial Verb Constructions (SVCs) in Mandarin Chinese (MC) and Jinjiang Southern Min (JSM), corresponding to the nuclear and core distinction made in Role and Reference Grammar (Foley and Van Valin 1984, Foley and Olson 1985, Van Valin and LaPolla 1997). This distinction is also made on the basis of a general consensus of the cross-linguistic classifications of the processes of monoclausal multi-verb construction formation (e.g., Butt 1993, 1997, Baker and Harvey 2010): namely, predicate fusion and argument fusion. In this study, I propose two sets of diagnostics to establish the distinction; these go beyond the range covered in previous studies (e.g., Olson 1981, Foley and Olson 1985, Crowley 2002, Chang 2007). In the first set of diagnostics in this study, seven inter-clausal diagnostics are considered as the threshold where the behaviours of bi-clausal structures and SVCs split. These diagnostics include independent negation, passivisation of the object of V2, independent modification by temporal adverbial, independent marking of viewpoint aspect, independent modification by manner adverbial, prosodic structure and the Coordinate Structure Constraint (Ross 1967) that is employed in a more restricted manner. In the second set of diagnostics, four intra-clausal diagnostics are adopted to make the distinction between nuclear and core SVCs, which include passivisation of O1, insertion of intervening material, coordination within the SVC, and obligatory topicalisation of undergoer argument. Of particular interest is the possibility that the same string of verbs may occur in superficially similar, but structurally different, SVCs: for example, the Cause-Effect SVC and the Excessive SVC. The diagnostics employed in this study are proposed as a novel method to establish the distinction between the SVCs and the bi-clausal structures, and more importantly, between core and nuclear types of SVC. Contributing to the originality of the new method of diagnosing the status of the SVCs proposed in this study, I add five novel diagnostics, such as passivisation of the object of V2, independent marking of viewpoint aspect, tone sandhi between adjacent verbs, coordination within the SVC and obligatory topicalisation of the undergoer argument, in addition to those that have been employed in the literature.I restrict myself to data of MC and JSM in discussing the rationale of the diagnostics. However, this novel method of identifying SVCs is expected to be cross-linguistically applicable with consistent results, while at the same time allowing for the possibility of cross-linguistic differences in the semantic sub-types of SVCs identified in each language.
Date of Award1 Aug 2016
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorEva Schultze-Berndt (Supervisor) & John Payne (Supervisor)


  • Serial Verb Constructions
  • Nuclear
  • Core
  • Predicate Fusion
  • Argument Fusion

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