If you say “the ball is on/to the right of the chair,” how many spatial configurations between the chair and the ball can you think of? Is there contact between the ball and the chair? If not, how far is the ball away from the chair? If you use another perspective, is the ball still on the right?

Spatial configurations in Mandarin are expressed via elements called localizers, and ambiguities are a natural part of these expressions. This essay proposes that those ambiguities result from different underlying syntactic structures. I argue that the complex morphemic structure of localizers can yield multiple syntactic structures, each with their own unique corresponding semantic interpretations. I introduce the concept of facet (e.g., “right-side-of”) generated by the geometry of the referent (e.g., “the chair”) and postulate a syntactic Facet node that merges on top of the DPGround (e.g., “the chair”). Additional layers of syntactic structure introduce the concepts of vector projection, region, and perspective, each deriving a piece of the final meaning.

The purpose of this essay is to contribute to the investigation of how human language encodes localizers and spatial information. Specifically, I look at how Mandarin speakers express the relative locative position of a referent based on the frameworks proposed by Benedicto and Salomón (2016) and Svenonius (2008). By considering the underlying structure of the elements under question, I am able to provide an explanation for the apparent ambiguity of their distributional behavior.