Double Quantification and the Meaning of Shenme ‘What’ in Chinese Bare Conditionals

Linguistics and Philosophy 22 (6):573-593 (1999)
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This paper shows that the semantics of shenme ‘what’ in Chinese bare conditionals may exhibit a phenomenon of double quantification. I argue that such double quantification can be nicely accounted for if one adopts Carlson's (1977a, b) semantics of bare plurals and verb meanings as well as the following two assumptions: (i) shenme ‘what’ can be a proform of bare NPs and hence has the same kind of denotation as bare NPs, and (ii) Chinese bare NPs are names of kinds of things. This analysis of Chinese bare conditionals lends support to Carlson's approach to bare plurals despite Wilkinson's (1991) criticisms. I also show that an extension of Heim's (1987) analysis of what as ‘something of kind x’ to Chinese shenme ‘what’ encounters problems when shenme ‘what’ is a shared constituent of a predicate which applies to kinds and another predicate which applies to objects.



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