Serial Verb Constructions in Chinese: An HPSG Account

Author: Stefan Müller and Janna Lipenkova


This paper appeared in 2009 in Stefan Müller (Ed): Proceedings of the 16th International Conference on Head-Driven Phrase Structure Grammar, University of Göttingen, Germany, Stanford: CSLI Publications, pages 234–254.

This paper gives an account of Serial Verb Constructions (SVCs) in Mandarin Chinese. After a typological presentation of the phenomenon, we give an overview of the Chinese data. The inventory of SVC types is classified according to causal and temporal relations between the components. We discuss pragmatic conditions on the use of SVCs and alternative, semantically equivalent constructions. An HPSG analysis is proposed for marked SVCs which uses the interaction between aspect marking and the set of possible subordinative relations to deduce the extra-lexical meaning of the construction. Particular attention is paid to the syntactically peculiar SVC with shared internal arguments, which is accounted for by a non-cancellation approach to valence requirements.