This week at Ling-Tea, Bing’er Jiang will present work on Mandarin double object constructions, in preparation for the upcoming MOTH Syntax Workshop. As always, Ling-Tea will take place Tuesday at 1pm in room 117.

I propose that in Mandarin double object constructions (e.g. John sent Mary a letter), gei is an overt realization of Harley (2002)’s possessive PHAVE head, shown in (1). It raises to join the predicate to form the verb, regardless of whether the predicate is null or overt.

(1) [vP Agent [v’ cause/ø [PP Goal [P’ PHAVE (gei) [DP Theme]]]]]
A comparison with the dative construction (e.g. John sent a letter to Mary) provides evidence for this account. First, the double object construction  (DOC) does not allow inanimate Goal arguments (Oehrle 1976).  Second, idioms of the DOC lose the idiomatic reading in their dative construction counterpart. Third, there are subtle semantic differences between dative and double object constructions, which offer further support for this account. This proposal also gives a unified account of why gei sometimes appears to be a preposition (2) and sometimes a verb (3).
(2)  Guge  na     gei    Lailai   yi-ge  ping-guo.

       Guge  take PHAVE Lailai  one-CL  apple
       ‘Guge brings Lailai an apple.’
(3)  Guge gei   Lailai yi-ge     ping-guo.
       Guge give Lailai one-CL apple
       ‘Guge gives Lailai an apple.’