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An Interdisciplinary Journal of the Language Sciences

Editor-in-Chief: Gast, Volker

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Volume 47, Issue 5


Apparent subject-object inversion in Chinese

One-Soon Her
Published Online: 2009-09-15 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/LING.2009.040


This article is concerned with the problem of argument-function mismatch observed in the (apparent) subject-object inversion in Chinese consumption verbs, e.g., chi ‘eat’ and he ‘drink’, and accommodation verbs, e.g., zhu ‘live’ and shui ‘sleep’. These verbs seem to allow the linking of 〈agent-SUBJ theme-OBJ〉 as well as 〈agent-OBJ theme-SUBJ〉, but only when the agent is also the semantic role denoting the measure or extent of the action. The account offered is formulated within LFG's lexical mapping theory. Under the simplest and also the strictest interpretation of the argument-function mapping principle (or the θ-criterion), a composite role such as ag-ext receives syntactic assignment via one composing role only; the second composing role must be suppressed. Apparent subject-object inversion occurs when in the competition between the two composing roles, agext, the agent loses out and is suppressed. This account also facilitates a natural explanation of markedness among the competing syntactic structures.

About the article

Graduate Institute of Linguistics, Research Center of Mind, Brain, and Learning, National Chengchi University (NCCU), Taipei 11605, Taiwan. E-mail:

Received: 2006-08-24

Revised: 2007-01-08

Published Online: 2009-09-15

Published in Print: 2009-09-01

Citation Information: Linguistics, Volume 47, Issue 5, Pages 1143–1181, ISSN (Online) 1613-396X, ISSN (Print) 0024-3949, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/LING.2009.040.

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