Plurality and Definiteness in Chengdu Chinese

Jiajuan Xiong, Chu-ren Huang

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review


The authors identify a plural marker -ɕiɛ in Chengdu Chinese that can apply to both count and mass nouns, encoding plurality as well as definiteness. This post-nominal -ɕiɛ differs from the pre-nominal ɕiɛ, as the latter is purely plural but not inherently definite. Our analysis shows that the pre-nominal ɕiɛ functions as a quantifier, which occupies the [Spec, NumP] position, whereas the suffixal -ɕiɛ, by virtue of being a plural marker, is base-generated in the Num0 position and move to d 0 to encode both plurality and definiteness. Moreover, the two ɕiɛs can co-occur in one and the same nominal phrase, exhibiting the double definiteness effect. The syntactic analysis of ɕiɛ in Chengdu Chinese, coupled with the study of di in Cantonese, has theoretical impacts on nominal phrase structures, in particular, on “plurality” and “definiteness”. First, plural markers in classifier languages contrast with those in number languages, as the former, but not the latter, defies numerical modification. Second, definiteness can be expressed by a non-D element, which may check its [+def] feature either by undergoing an upward movement to D (or [Spec, DP]) or by agreeing with the [+def] feature of a demonstrative. Third, the DP-NP distinction is strongly supported by our account of Chengdu Chinese.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)651-682
JournalLanguage and Linguistics
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2020


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