Wh-fronting and the left periphery in Mandarin

Candice Chi-Hang Cheung

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


This article explores the semantic and syntactic properties of wh-fronting constructions as well as the fine structure of the left periphery in Mandarin along the lines of the cartographic approach. It is discovered that wh-fronting constructions exhibit two salient properties associated with Identificational Focus (IdentF), namely, (i) exhaustive identification and (ii) the ability to occupy a scopal position, suggesting that wh-fronting is best analyzed as a strategy for licensing IdentF. It is proposed that two derivational mechanisms are in principle available to wh-fronting constructions: the wh-phrase is either derived by movement to Spec-FocP, or it may resort to a base-generation strategy when the wh-phrase is linked to an empty pronoun or a resumptive pronoun inside an island. It is argued that previous analyses that treat wh-fronting constructions as a type of topic structure cannot account for their different morphological and semantic properties. This view is further corroborated by an investigation of the topography of Topics and Foci in the left periphery, which shows that IdentF occupies a dedicated syntactic position distinct from that of the types of Topics available in Mandarin. The investigation also reveals that Focus constitutes an independent field that is situated below the Topic field.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)393-431
Number of pages39
JournalJournal of East Asian Linguistics
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 23 Oct 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Focus
  • Identificational Focus
  • Left periphery
  • Mandarin
  • Topic
  • Wh-fronting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • History and Philosophy of Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Wh-fronting and the left periphery in Mandarin'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this