Mandarin Bare Classifier-Nouns: Towards a Universal Structure for Classifiers and Plurals
Received: Feb 11, 2014; Revised: Mar 10, 2014; Accepted: Mar 15, 2014
Published Online: Jan 01, 2017
Mandarin, as other classifier languages, usually requires a classifier when numerals, quantifiers, or demonstratives are present, but also allows bare classifier-nouns (CL-N) without any determiners. This paper examines two empirical questions: (i) What is the structure of CL-N that can account for its behavior?
Under what conditions are bare CL-Ns acceptable? Following Borer’s Exo-Skeletal framework, I draw a parallel between Mandarin classifiers and the English plural. Mandarin ben shu ‘CL book’ and English books both are CLASSIFIER PHRASES carrying no quantity information. Numeral-classifier-nouns (Num-CL-Ns), such as san ben shu ‘three books,’ are QUANTITY PHRASES carrying quantity information. This proposal correctly predicts that CL-Ns and Num-CL-Ns have different distributions due to different structures. Supporting data are drawn from CL-Ns in argument and non-argument positions in various constructions to attest the prediction that when the quantity information is needed in the discourse, Num-CL-Ns will be obligatory; in contrast, when the quantity information is not crucial, CL-Ns will be preferred or obligatory.