Deran Kong


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(In)Alienable Possession in Mandarin Relative Clauses
Deran Kong | Yu-Yin Hsu
Proceedings of the Workshop on Cognitive Aspects of the Lexicon

Inalienable possession differs from alienable possession in that, in the former – e.g., kinships and part-whole relations – there is an intrinsic semantic dependency between the possessor and possessum. This paper reports two studies that used acceptability-judgment tasks to investigate whether native Mandarin speakers experienced different levels of interpretational costs while resolving different types of possessive relations, i.e., inalienable possessions (kinship terms and body parts) and alienable ones, expressed within relative clauses. The results show that sentences received higher acceptability ratings when body parts were the possessum as compared to sentences with alienable possessum, indicating that the inherent semantic dependency facilitates the resolution. However, inalienable kinship terms received the lowest acceptability ratings. We argue that this was because the kinship terms, which had the [+human] feature and appeared at the beginning of the experimental sentences, tended to be interpreted as the subject in shallow processing; these features contradicted the semantic-syntactic requirements of the experimental sentences.