Chinese "SHI...DE" focus constructions: an Optimality-Theoretic proposal

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This thesis studies SHI...DE focus constructions, or what have been called cleft sentences, in Chinese. The two main goals are to understand the form and function of this type of construction and to account for its syntactic variations. First, I justify previous claims that shi plays a dual role in SHI...DE focus constructions as a contrastive focus marker and as a Theme-Rheme separator. Then I put together a set of restrictions on topical Themes in SHI...DE focus constructions, which I call topical Theme conditions. Finally, based on the data, I propose that the form of SHI...DE focus constructions is shaped by the interaction of four syntactic and pragmatic factors--topical Theme conditions, strong topic fronting, word order and a shi rule. These factors are ranked according to their strengths. The availability of such ranking suggests the possibility of using Optimality Theory to account for the form of SHI...DE focus constructions.

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Department of Linguistics - Simon Fraser University
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Thesis (M.A.)