Quantification and Predication in Mandarin Chinese: A Case Study of Dou

Thumbnail Image
Degree type
Graduate group
Grant number
Copyright date
Related resources
Huang, Shi-Zhe

In the more recent generalized quantifier theory, 'every' is defined as a relation between two sets such that the first set is a subset of the second set (Cooper (1987), van Benthem (1986)). We argue in this dissertation that the formal definition of 'every' ought to reflect our intuition that this quantifier is always associated with a pairing. For instance, 'Every student left' means that for every student there is an event (Davidson (1966), Kroch (1974), Mourelatos (1978), Bach (1986)) such that the student left in that event. We propose that the formal translation of EVERY be augmented by relating its two arguments via a skolem function. A skolem function links two variables by making the choice of a value for one variable depend on the choice of a value for the other. This definition of EVERY, after which 'every' and its Chinese counterpart 'mei' can be modeled, can help us explain the co-occurrence pattern between 'mei' and the adverb 'dou'. It was observed in S.-Z. Huang (1995a) that 'mei' requires either 'dou', or an indefinite phrase, or a reflexive in its scope. Under the skolemized definition of EVERY, this is explainable: The skolem function needs a variable in the scope of EVERY. We stipulate that only morphologically/lexically licensed variables are available for quantification (of this kind). 'Dou' occurs with 'mei' because 'dou' can license the event variable for skolemization. This function of 'dou' is performed by the tense operator in English, while Chinese, lacking tense, resorts to 'dou'. 'Dou', we will argue, is a sum operator on the event variable. Thus, 'dou VPs' always assert plural events, which predicts that the distribution of 'dou' may or may not involve universal quantification. Among other things, our account explains scope ambiguity in Chinese, the optionality of 'dou', and the interchangeability, in a number of contexts, between 'dou' and conjunction/additive words for VPs such as 'ye' "also, and", 'you' "also, again", and 'hai' "also, still".

Date of degree
Date Range for Data Collection (Start Date)
Date Range for Data Collection (End Date)
Digital Object Identifier
Series name and number
Volume number
Issue number
Publisher DOI
Journal Issue
University of Pennsylvania Institute for Research in Cognitive Science Technical Report No. IRCS-96-36.
Recommended citation