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Author ORCID Identifier



Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program


Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Kyle Johnson

Second Advisor

Rajesh Bhatt

Third Advisor

Seth Cable

Fourth Advisor

Brendan O'Connor

Subject Categories

Semantics and Pragmatics | Syntax


This dissertation looks at the syntactic distributions of various Mandarin arguments and develops an argument structure that takes into account the arguments’ semantic types. Theories of argument realization mostly build on a one-to-one correspondence between the syntactic positions of arguments and the thematic relations they bear to the verb in the underlying structure. And this correspondence is rooted in the assumption that the argument positions in the verb’s projection must be saturated before other semantic compositions can take place. This dissertation argues that the saturation requirement can be alleviated, depending on whether languages make a morphological distinction in their syntax. Making the distinction would then lead to the non-existence of the correspondence, resulting in arguments with a particular theta-role being able to base-generate in different positions inside the verb’s projection.

Three general patterns of argument distribution are investigated, all in the presence of a post-verbal temporal adverbial modifying the verb’s duration/frequency. The first pattern, Pattern I, describes the positions of internal arguments relative to that of the post-verbal adverbial, regulated by the arguments’ semantic types. I argue that Pattern I is part of a widely known phenomenon, Pseudo-(Noun)-Incorporation (Massam, 2001), where the arguments in the form of bare NPs occur in the lowest syntactic position adjacent to the verb. I propose a separate syntactic head that encodes the internal theta-roles of the verb, mediating the realizations of arguments by their types. It is argued that once a language incorporates this head, whose scope is hypothesized to be a morphological domain, the language is pseudo-incorporating and is able to have non-argument-saturated VPs. Many pseudo-incorporating properties are consequently derivable.

The second pattern, Pattern II, describes the preverbal displacement of internal arguments, accompanied by a bare copy of the verb or not. Further categorized as Type I and Type II, where the former lacks and the latter involves the bare verb copy, Pattern II is argued to be cases of sentence-internal topicalization. Arguing against many previous analyses, I show that Type I is not focalization but topicalization, siding with Paul (2002, 2005) and Badan (2008). And by comparing Type II to the VP-copying construction in Hebrew (Landau, 2006, 2007), I argue that Type II should also operate under the rules of topicalization. That is, a unified account of topicalization can be achieved for both Type I and II. The post-verbal temporal adverbial is shown to enable Pattern II in a way that it should be treated as a pragmatic trigger for the topicalization.

Finally, the third pattern, Pattern III, describes an inversion between the internal and external argument in the obligatory presence of the post-verbal temporal adverbial. It is argued to involve causativization of the eventualities denoted by the verb. More specifically put, it is argued to be a causativization strategy Mandarin employs for the relation between the occurrence and the duration/frequency of the eventualities by means of a causative head in syntax. In other words, the inversion of the arguments is the manifestation of causativization, and is connected to the obligatory post-verbal temporal adverbial that is the resulting end of this causal relation.