About Prosodic Syntax
Chinese Prosodic Syntax is an emerging discipline of linguistics, which aims to build an interfacial theory on the “Phonology-Syntax” interaction. Drawing on the principles of metrical phonology and formal syntax, it explores the constraints that prosody imposes on syntax. For example, why does Mandarin disallow such constructions as “*打了三個人三次(to hit three people three times)”, “*放了在桌子上(to put (something) on the table)”, “*負責任這項工作(to take responsibility for this job)”?Why does “三人(three people)” in Pre-Qin Chinese change into “三個人(three people)” in Mandarin? Why is “*送了書給三個人(to send books to three people)” ungrammatical in Mandarin, while its counterpart is allowed in some Chinese dialects(e.g. Cantonese)? The above questions can hardly be addressed from a pure syntactic perspective. It is exploration of the above-mentioned “syntactic puzzles” from the perspective of prosody that leads to the establishment of prosodic syntax. With its focus on linguistic universals (e.g. nuclear stress), prosodic syntax tries to uncover prosodic constraints on syntactic operations, which include locality in nuclear stress assignment (Government-based Nuclear Stress Rule), prosodic status of nuclear stress assigner (the minimal word condition), the loosening and tightening force of nuclear stress, the morphological function of prosody, etc. Moreover, new advances in prosodic syntax reveal that stresses are hierarchical, diverse and interactive. Specifically, nuclear stress, narrow focus stress and intonation stress are mapped to different syntactic projections, realized via distinct means and supposed to interact. Based on this series of theoretical contributions, prosodic syntax has not only confirmed the argument that prosody filters syntax, but also proposed a mechanism of how prosody activates syntax. It has not only facilitated investigation of individual linguistic components, but also deepened understanding of the interaction between these different components. In its framework, not only can synchronic facts be accounted for but also diachronic data can be explained from a new perspective. Not only does research on prosody-syntax interaction in Mandarin benefit from this discipline but also the interfacial studies in other dialects and languages are promoted by its discoveries. Not only does this discipline contribute to Chinese linguistics by offering a powerful analytic tool but it also advances the development of general linguistics by disproving the argument of phonology-free syntax.