The particle suo in Mandarin Chinese: a case of long X0-dependency and a reexamination of the Principle of Minimal Compliance

Yafei Li, Jen Ting*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


X0-dependencies are known to be highly local. It has been argued that syntactic head movement can affect locality constraints. While some recent studies have revealed that verbal heads can undergo long-distance movement similar to phrasal movement, nominal categories still appear to adhere to strict locality constraints on head movement. In this context, we examine an exception, the particle suo in Mandarin Chinese, and explore its theoretical implications. We begin by showing that the X0-element suo exhibits a long dependency across every type of clausal boundary in Chinese, including finite ones. By placing suo in a typology that accommodates resumptive pronouns and Romance-type clitics, we highlight the significance of suo’s long dependency. Next, we argue that suo forms a big-DP with the relative operator; since movement of the relative operator has satisfied the locality constraint, according to Richards’ (1998. The Principle of Minimal Compliance. Linguistic Inquiry 29. 599–629) Principle of Minimal Compliance, suo can have a long dependency on its underlying position. This discussion leads us to conclude that the original formulation of the Principle of Minimal Compliance needs reexamination regarding the true meaning of exemption. Once exemption from a locality condition is separated from movement itself, both the initial data for the PMC and the behaviors of suo are accounted for.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)421-455
Number of pages35
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2024 Mar 1


  • Principle of Minimal Compliance
  • X-dependency
  • clitic
  • long head movement
  • particle suo
  • resumptive pronoun

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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