On the syntax of the SUO construction in Classical Chinese

Jen Ting*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


This paper investigates the suo construction in Classical Chinese and attempts to provide a proper syntactic analysis of it by comparing it with its modem Chinese counterpart. I extend and modify Ting's (2003a) analysis of the modem suo construction to account for the Classical suo construction. Like its counterpart in modern Chinese, the Classical suo is a clitic in overt syntax, raising from N0 to I0 in overt syntax. This explains its fixed position with respect to other elements in the clause, as well as the fact that it may stand for grammatical object, location, but not grammatical subject. The reason why it may stand for manner and reason as well as grammatical object of a preposition, in contrast to the modern suo, is due to different categorial status of coverbs in modem and Classical Chinese; namely, that modern Chinese prepositions are in fact verbs in Classical Chinese. Unlike the modern suo, which is a variable, the Classical suo undergoes further movement from I0 to C0 at LF to fulfill its operator status. I argue that this explains why suo is optional in modem Chinese, but obligatory in Classical Chinese. This analysis echoes the conventional wisdom, which may be traced back to Ma (1898) that the classical suo is a relative pronoun. But crucially I argue that suo is such a pronoun, not in the overt syntax, but at LF.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)233-267
Number of pages35
JournalJournal of Chinese Linguistics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2005 Jun


  • Classical Chinese
  • Clitic
  • Head movement
  • Relative clause
  • The particle suo

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Linguistics and Language


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