Journal of East Asian Linguistics

, Volume 26, Issue 1, pp 1–36 | Cite as

Pre-classifier adjectival modification in Mandarin Chinese: a measurement-based analysis

  • Qiongpeng Luo
  • Miao-Ling Hsieh
  • Dingxu Shi


Pre-classifier adjectival modification (PCAM) structures in Mandarin Chinese are subject to some unique constraints, such as: (i) only size adjectives are allowed; (ii) the pre-classifier adjectives resist further adverbial modification by degree adverbs and reduplicated forms of their own. This cluster of phenomena is explained in a measurement-based analysis. It is hypothesized that the pre-classifier adjectives introduce a measure function, which has some non-trivial order-preserving property and is constrained by a monotonicity restriction: what is measured must respect part-of relations. This analysis correctly predicts that only those classifiers and nouns that are associated with monotonic dimensions can be accessed by size adjectives, thus providing a motivated account of the elusive contrast between expressions like yi da tiao yu ‘one big Cl fish’ and *yi da wei laoshi ‘one big Cl teacher.’ And in so doing, the present analysis brings PCAM structures closer to some other constructions that make use of the same grammar of measurement across categories.


Pre-classifier adjectival modification Monotonicity restriction Measurement Dimensions of nouns Mandarin Chinese 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Liberal ArtsNanjing UniversityNanjingChina
  2. 2.Department of EnglishNational Taiwan Normal UniversityTaipeiTaiwan
  3. 3.National Key Research Center for Linguistics and Applied LinguisticsGuangdong University of Foreign StudiesGuangzhouChina

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