On the form and meaning of Chinese bare conditionals : not just "whatever"

Access full-text files




Huang, Yahui, 1973-

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



The syntactic and semantic treatment of Chinese Bare Conditionals is a topic of much debate (Cheng and Huang 1996; Lin 1996; Chierchia 2000). This dissertation investigates the nature of Chinese Bare Conditionals in three aspects: quantification and modal implications as compared to English free relatives with –ever, and pronoun occurrence. With regard to quantification, I propose to treat the anteceding wh-phrase and its anaphoric element (pronoun/wh-word) uniformly as a definite description denoting a maximal plural entity similar to Jacobson (1995). This entity can be an atomic entity resulting in a singular definite reading, or an entity consisting of more than one atom deriving a universal-like reading. Concerning modal implication, I propose to capture the agent’s/speaker’s indifference reading of bare conditionals with von Fintel (2000). Indifference reading in his analysis is interpreted against a counterfactual modal base which predicts a causal link. His analysis is needed for the interpretation of Chinese bare conditionals but may not be applied directly to whatever, given that a causal link is necessarily present in a bare conditional, but not required in an English whatever-sentence. I argue that the use of a pronoun in a bare conditional is not subject to a uniqueness and existence condition as claimed in Lin (1996). Although bare conditionals typically contain two identical wh-words, they may occur naturally with a pronoun that links bare conditionals with other sentences into a piece of coherent discourse.
This account bears an important implication for the study of Chinese wh-phrases and third person pronouns in being able to predict the existence of anaphoric definite wh-phrases and bound-variable pronouns in the language. It also improves on existing accounts of Chinese bare conditionals in being able to capture the details of the form and meaning of this construction. Chinese bare conditionals are structurally related to ruguo ‘if’-conditionals and Hindi left-adjoined correlatives and their meaning is similar to, and yet not quite the same as that of whatever.




LCSH Subject Headings