Tom Grano · Control, restructuring, and the case against a finite/nonfinite distinction in Mandarin Chinese
Debate persists over whether Mandarin Chinese, a language with no overt agreement marking and (arguably) no overt tense marking, exhibits a (covert) finite/nonfinite split. Proponents of such a split point to asymmetries in the properties of complement clauses that they argue are most naturally explained by positing a finite/nonfinite distinction (C-T. J. Huang 1982, 1984, 1987, 1989; Li 1985, 1990; C.C. Tang 1990; Ernst 1994; T.C. Tang 2000; T-.H. J. Lin 2011, 2012); the opposing view counterargues that these asymmetries face counterexamples that undermine the basis for such a distinction (Xu 1985–1986, 1994, 2003; Y. Huang 1994, 1995; Hu et al. 2001). In this talk, I side with the proponent view in arguing that there are systematic asymmetries in the properties of complement clauses that call out for an explanation, but I also side with the opposing view in arguing that a finite/nonfinite split is unmotivated. Rather, my central claim is that all of the observed splits can be explained by appealing to a monoclausal (restructuring) / biclausal (non-restructuring) distinction and to crosslinguistically motivated hierarchical relations in the clause. In making this claim, I draw on the theoretical framework developed in Grano 2012, whereby a principled subset of complement control structures universally instantiate functional restructuring in the sense of Cinque (2006). I focus primarily on three phenomena in Mandarin: the distribution and interpretation of embedded subjects, the distribution and interpretation of embedded aspect, and scopal interactions between modals and aspect markers. The primary theoretical implication is that we can maintain the null hypothesis: Mandarin lacks a finite/nonfinite distinction.