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An Optimality-Theoretic Account of Mandarin Complex Reflexive ta-ziji (s/he-self)

Pan Haihua

Hu Jianhua


As noted in Pan (1995, 1998), non-contrastive complex reflexive ta-ziji in Chinese (i) can have a long-distance (LD) bound antecedent; (ii) allows non-c-command/sub-command antecedents; and (iii) also observes some kind of blocking effect. In this paper we will show that the binding properties exhibited by ta-ziji can be best explained if we adopt an Optimality-theoretic (OT) account of reflexivization. We think that the blocking effect of ta-ziji can be derived from the prominence constraint which stipulates that the binding of a reflexive to a will be blocked by an intervening NP b iff b is not less prominent than a. After listing different constraints that regulate the interpretation of reflexives, we find that it is necessary to make a distinction between hard constraints and soft constraints, and in this aspect, we deviate from the standard OT hypothesis in the sense that all constraints are violable. Under our analysis, hard constraints are inviolable through all languages, and hence, they do not vary from language to language, whereas soft constraints are violable, and the different rankings of these soft constraints play an active role in accounting for the different binding properties of reflexives in different languages.

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