Serial verb constructions or verb compounds? : a prototype approach to resultative verb constructions in Mandarin Chinese

No Thumbnail Available
Zhang, Bin (Student at Ball State University : 1985)
Riddle, Elizabeth M.
Issue Date
Thesis (Ph. D.)
Department of English
Other Identifiers

Resultative verb constructions RVCs (hereafter) are a special type of serial verb construction in Mandarin Chinese, in which the verbs hold an action-result relation. On the one hand, they behave like compounds, e.g., the verbs can be questioned as a single verb but cannot be separately modified, and no NP can possibly intervene. On the other hand, they also behave like phrases, i.e, for some types, the verbs can be split by an NP and can be separately modified. There has been controversy about the best way to analyze RVCs. There are two general positions: the pre-lexical syntactic approach and the pre-syntactic lexical approach. The former holds that resultative verb constructions are a syntactic phenomenon which can be derived by transformational rules. The latter, claims that RVCs are best considered a lexical phenomenon, i.e., verb compounds.This dissertation argues that neither approach sufficiently accounts for this phenomenon, in that both only shift the problem from one level of linguistic description to another. I propose a linguistic prototype analysis in which RVCs are seen as conventionalized serial verb constructions. I argue that the properties of the prototype and the conventionalized serial verb construction are subject to constraints in three areas: the semantic and syntactic dependency of the verbs, iconicity, and clause linkage. Through the analysis of the syntactic, semantic, and phonological behavior of various types of serial verb constructions, it is shown that serial verb constructions are on a structural continuum, i.e., from syntax to lexicon. RVCs are seen as close to the lexicalization end on the continuum.This dissertation shows the interplay of syntax, semantics, and phonology in the processes of syntactization and morphologization in Mandarin. It not only helps account for serial verb constructions but also has implications for other serial type phenomena on the word level, such as compounding and incorporation in Mandarin.