Pre-classifier adjectival modification in Mandarin Chinese: a measurement-based analysis

Qiongpeng Luo*, Miao Ling Hsieh, Dingxu Shi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Pre-classifier adjectival modification (PCAM) structures in Mandarin Chinese are subject to some unique constraints, such as: (i) only size adjectives are allowed; (ii) the pre-classifier adjectives resist further adverbial modification by degree adverbs and reduplicated forms of their own. This cluster of phenomena is explained in a measurement-based analysis. It is hypothesized that the pre-classifier adjectives introduce a measure function, which has some non-trivial order-preserving property and is constrained by a monotonicity restriction: what is measured must respect part-of relations. This analysis correctly predicts that only those classifiers and nouns that are associated with monotonic dimensions can be accessed by size adjectives, thus providing a motivated account of the elusive contrast between expressions like yi da tiao yu ‘one big Cl fish’ and *yi da wei laoshi ‘one big Cl teacher.’ And in so doing, the present analysis brings PCAM structures closer to some other constructions that make use of the same grammar of measurement across categories.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-36
Number of pages36
JournalJournal of East Asian Linguistics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2017 Feb 1


  • Dimensions of nouns
  • Mandarin Chinese
  • Measurement
  • Monotonicity restriction
  • Pre-classifier adjectival modification

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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