Aspectual coercion in Mandarin Chinese

TitreAspectual coercion in Mandarin Chinese
Publication TypeCommunication
Année de publication2020
AuthorsSaillard, Claire
Titre de la conférenceAspectual coercion in Mandarin Chinese
Date de publication02/2020
Lieu de la conférenceLingLunch Paris Diderot

Authors such as (Smith 1997) propose that the double articulation of Aspect in "situation" and "viewpoint" components is universal, and applies in particular to Mandarin Chinese (see also Smith 1990; 1994; Smith and Erbaugh 2005).

Jin Lixin (金立鑫2008) pleads instead for a three-tiered aspectual description for Chinese, a language where, according to him, both Aktionsart and situation types are salient and contribute to the overall aspect specification of sentences. Jin uses the concept of “Aktionsart” to refer to aspect qualities residing in verbs proper, and the term “situation types” to refer to aspectual traits of verb phrases. For him, at least two types of verbs (未实现动词 and 实现动词 ) may by themselves decide of the aspectual specification of a sentence. In all other cases, the verbs’ Aktionsart is not salient enough and other elements such as grammatical aspect markers of various types contribute to the overall aspectual properties of the sentence.

Such an approach is precious for untangling what in aspectual meanings pertains to the lexicon proper, and what pertains to morpho-syntax. This has been a very difficult question from the start, since it could be seen even from Vendler’s influential paper (Vendler 1957) that the distinction between inherent aspectual features of the verbs and aspectual traits brought by the verb’s complements (as in the well-known ‘run’ (Activity) vs. ‘run a mile’ (Accomplishment) contrast) was difficult.

The general question then could be formulated as: where do aspectual specifications lie? How is it possible to ascertain the aspectual specifications of verbs abstracted from the morpho-syntactic contexts in which they are inserted? What is the contribution of elements such as verbal suffixes, verbal complements (such as resultative or directional complements), verbal classifiers, adverbs, etc.?

The question could be reformulated as: whether lexical verbs do have aspectual specification in Chinese; on the other hand, how much do they rely on morpho-syntax for their aspectual specification?

At the morpho-syntactic level, we want to point to the pervasiveness of coercion phenomena, as described by De Swart 1998 or Michaelis 2004 for English and French, and try to identify the principal coercion operators.