This paper addresses the topic of acquisitive modals grammaticalized from the etyma meaning “come to have” (Enfield 2001), as Mandarin dĕi/dé/de 得, Cantonese dàk 得, Lao daj4 and Vietnamese được. The goal of the investigation is twofold. It is argued that (i) the polyfunctionality covered by the MSEA acquisitive modals, in Mandarin, tends to be displayed by the core modal néng, which functions as a sort of umbrella accommodating different modal meanings, whereas the acquisitive morphemes are highly specialized in conveying a unique modal meaning. Moreover, evidence is provided showing that, (ii) when co-occurring with potential contributions, néng contributes to conferring an agentive reading. To this end, a comparison is provided between the expression of possibility via the core modal néng versus the acquisitive modals, also with reference to their stacked occurrences. Examples are provided showing that néng is a modal “reinforcement” of the potential construction (Cheng and Sybesma 2004), wherein the latter is characterized by reduced agentivity. Different types of double occurrences are singled out, also with reference to the degree of grammatical acceptability by different informants. The contexts in which the ‘néng de-construction’ is fully accepted are mainly interrogatives and rhetorical questions. This modal stacking is considered very natural in epistemic multimodal constructions and is perceived as mandatory in the relative clauses wherein the nominal head is the object of the potential construction. In these cases, for the head to be interpreted as the object, there must be either the subject or a full-fledged modal, like néng, (or both). Finally, it is also highlighted that méi néng can occur as a suppletive form of negative potential constructions. The former expresses actuality entailment, therefore displaying the implicative feature which is common to many acquisitive modals, such as 'get'.

Competing Markers: Acquisitive and Core Modals in Modern Mandarin Chinese

Carlotta Sparvoli
2017

Abstract

This paper addresses the topic of acquisitive modals grammaticalized from the etyma meaning “come to have” (Enfield 2001), as Mandarin dĕi/dé/de 得, Cantonese dàk 得, Lao daj4 and Vietnamese được. The goal of the investigation is twofold. It is argued that (i) the polyfunctionality covered by the MSEA acquisitive modals, in Mandarin, tends to be displayed by the core modal néng, which functions as a sort of umbrella accommodating different modal meanings, whereas the acquisitive morphemes are highly specialized in conveying a unique modal meaning. Moreover, evidence is provided showing that, (ii) when co-occurring with potential contributions, néng contributes to conferring an agentive reading. To this end, a comparison is provided between the expression of possibility via the core modal néng versus the acquisitive modals, also with reference to their stacked occurrences. Examples are provided showing that néng is a modal “reinforcement” of the potential construction (Cheng and Sybesma 2004), wherein the latter is characterized by reduced agentivity. Different types of double occurrences are singled out, also with reference to the degree of grammatical acceptability by different informants. The contexts in which the ‘néng de-construction’ is fully accepted are mainly interrogatives and rhetorical questions. This modal stacking is considered very natural in epistemic multimodal constructions and is perceived as mandatory in the relative clauses wherein the nominal head is the object of the potential construction. In these cases, for the head to be interpreted as the object, there must be either the subject or a full-fledged modal, like néng, (or both). Finally, it is also highlighted that méi néng can occur as a suppletive form of negative potential constructions. The former expresses actuality entailment, therefore displaying the implicative feature which is common to many acquisitive modals, such as 'get'.
Carlotta Sparvoli
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11585/782243
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