We first point out that Mandarin Chinese and English show a striking contrast with respect to metalinguistic negation. Simple negated sentences in English freely allow metalinguistic readings of the negation whereas counterpart sentences in Mandarin do not. The cross-linguistic difference is then derived from independently motivated structural representations of negation in these two languages interacting with a single proposed universal syntactic constraint on the availability of metalinguistic readings of negative sentences. We show that the proposed constraint also accurately distinguishes within Mandarin between negative sentences which prohibit metalinguistic readings, on the one hand, and negative sentences which allow them, on the other. In addition to accounting for the previously unanalyzed contrast between Mandarin and English, the analysis accounts for this cross-linguistic difference without resorting to language specific (or even typological) statements about metalinguistic negation. Cross-linguistic differences in this respect are claimed to follow as a consequence of independently motivated syntactic differences between the two languages.
Proceedings of the sixth international symposium on Chinese language and linguistics' academia sinica