``Dative alternation'' in Chinese and English

Date of Completion

January 1991


Language, Linguistics




This thesis provides an account for the complement Switching symmetry in English and Chinese.^ Complement switching is called dative alternation traditionally. However, I generalize this alternation into cases where the preposition gei can occur in the double object construction in Chinese. I also discuss sentences that do not allow complement switching.^ I will use "dative alternation" to include all my focal examples.^ Chapter 2 classifies the Double object sentences in Chinese into four types: gei optional, gei obligatory, gei prohibited and sentences with bidirectional verbs. Some of the major syntactic differences between Chinese and English dative constructions will be shown to follow lexical differences between Chinese gei and English to.^ Chapter 3 discusses sentences which allow dative alternation. I propose that the D-structure for these sentences is: $\rm\lbrack \sb{VP}\lbrack\sb{V\prime}e\ \lbrack\sb{VP}\ gei\ PP\lbrack \sb{V\prime}$ V Theme)))).^ I further propose that V$\sp\prime$ Reanalysis makes the verb and the Theme as a unit (=V$\sp0$), applies optionally. Depending on whether V$\sp\prime$ Reanalysis applies or not, we derive either variant after the obligatory head to head movement of the lower V. I argue that gei, being a possessor $\theta$-role assigner, licenses "dative alternation".^ Chapter 4 examines sentences that do not allow "dative alternation." Following Grimshaw's claim (1989) that only a Goal that is a possessor can have dative alternation, I correctly predict that gei is not allowed in these sentences. I propose that their D-structure is: $\rm\lbrack\sb{VP}\lbrack \sb{V\prime}$ V Theme Locative PP)).^ Assuming that there is no VP shell (in the sense of Larson (1988)) for reasons of economy (Chomsky 1989), V$\sp\prime$ Reanalysis therefore does not apply.^ Chapter 5 investigates sentences with preverbal gei PPs and zai PPs. I argue that these preverbal PPs are focus base-generated in the preverbal positions. That gei PPs are not allowed in topic position is because gei assigns a possessor $\theta$-role compositionally with the verb. (Abstract shortened with permission of author.) ^