Compositionality in the domain of tense, mood and aspect

Eric Reuland

A Puzzle in Mandarin: zi-prefixation and its effect on binding and tense

In addition to the pronominal ta and anaphoric elements ta-ziji, and zi-ji Mandarin also has a verbal prefix zi- with the property of reflexivizing a transitive predicate it attaches to (Chief 1997, 1998; Reuland, Wong and Everaert 2020; Wong 2021). This prefix can also attach to a class of verbs with a clausal complement. When inside such a complement, binding of the pronominal ta and the anaphor zi-ji shows an interesting restriction, which will be shown to follow from the syntax and the semantics of the zi-prefix. As Wong (2021) shows, the zi-prefix also has another effect: While the non-prefixed counterparts of zi-verbs occur in past, present and future tense, in the presence of the zi-prefix future tense is not available. An interesting question is, then, how current analyses of Tense, as in Verkuyl (2021) can shed light on this effect.


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Chief, Lian-Cheng. 1998. Mandarin intransitive reflexive verbs and the Unaccusative Hypothesis. Language, Information and Computation 12:48–59.
Reuland, Eric, Sally Chi Ho Wong, and Martin Everaert. 2020. How the Complexity of Mandarin Zi-Ji Simplifies the Grammar. Linguistic Inquiry 51 (4):799-814. https://doi-org/10.1162/ling_a_00355.
Verkuyl, Henk. 2021. The Compositional Nature of Tense, Mood and Aspect. Cambridge University Press.
Wong, Sally Chi Ho. 2021. Reflexivization in Mandarin: the role of zi-ji and its components. Amsterdam: LOT International Dissertation Series