The Nature of Indeterminate Expressions in Chinese and Korean: Focused on Wh-phrases in Conditionals

Daeho Chung1, Myung-Kwan Park2,
Author Information & Copyright
1Hanyang University
2Dongguk University
*Corresponding Author : Professor, Division of English, Dongguk University, 30, 1-gil, Phil-dong-ro, Jung-gu, Seoul 04620, Korea, E-mail:

ⓒ Copyright 2019 Language Education Institute, Seoul National University. This is an Open-Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Received: Oct 02, 2019 ; Revised: Nov 05, 2019 ; Accepted: Dec 26, 2019

Published Online: Dec 31, 2019


In this paper, we argue that indeterminates in so-called bare wh-conditionals of Chinese are not ordinary indefinites but wh-indefinites. Thus, they are subject to overt ATB-fashion wh-movement, with its tail copy ultimately being realized rather than being licensed via unselective binding by the universal operator, as proposed in Cheng and Huang (1996). We ascribe the co-varying interpretation between the two wh-indefinites in the two antecedent and consequent clauses to the property of the covert form of subordinate conjunction, which can only unify identically interpreted conjoined elements. On the other hand, Korean wh-indefinites are not subject to overt wh-movement but enter into Agree with the Q marker for their licensing. Thus, in the Korean counterpart of bare wh-conditionals, the wh-indefinite in the antecedent clause is referred back to by the anaphoric expression in the subsequent clause that serves as an E-type pronoun, such as a demonstrative (plus the wh-indefinite) or a null argument. It is to be underscored that, owing to the lack of overt wh-movement, the two wh-indefinites in Korean cannot be anaphorically linked via ATB wh-movement.

Keywords: indeterminates; bare wh-conditional; (c)overt wh-movement; ATB wh-movement; co-varying; subordinating conjunction



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