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Elliptical Constructions in L2 Chinese Grammers (Part 2)

Research Students' Seminars on Second Language Chinese

Elliptical Constructions in L2 Chinese Grammers (Part 2)

VP-ellipsis and Object-ellipsis in English and Japanese speakers' L2 Chinese grammars

The second seminar of 2013-14 Michaelmas Term will take place on Friday, 15th November, in Room 7 at the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies. The speaker will be Lulu Zhang, who will present her PhD project on Elliptical Constructions in L2 Chinese Grammars (see abstract below). The seminar starts at 3.30pm and ends at 5.30pm.

The Research Students' Seminars on Chinese as a Second Language are held by the L2 Chinese research group of the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies. The aim of these seminars is to provide research students with a platform to discuss recent development in the field, to present their research work and to receive feedback from teaching staff and fellow students. The seminars are supervised by Dr Boping Yuan.

All are welcome!


My Ph.D. research aims to examine elliptical constructions in English and Japanese-speaking learners' second language (L2) Chinese grammars, in order to find out whether L2 Chinese learners are able to attain native-like knowledge of these constructions and whether they are able to integrate the syntactic knowledge and discourse information in off-line and on-line tasks. This presentation will show the experiment design of one part of my ongoing PhD project, including VP-ellipsis and Object-ellipsis.

VP-ellipsis is a type of construction that 'the verb phrase is simply omitted. The sentence can be interpreted because the preceding linguistic context is rich enough to fill in the missing material. Normally, special linguistic markers, like too, also, are used to signal that ellipsis has occurred, although these are not necessary' (Adger 2003: 185). VP-ellipsis has been identified in many languages. In Chinese there are two constructions analyzed as involving VP-ellipsis, the licensors of which are an auxiliary such as hui 'will' or the Chinese shi 'be'; in contrast, in English there are also two types, the missing constituents of which are licensed by either an auxiliary or the do-support. However, in Japanese VP-ellipsis is not licensed. In line with Soh (2007), it is claimed that the Chinese auxiliary shi occupies the head of TP, whilst Chinese and English auxiliaries, as well as the English do, appear at the head of ModP, a position lower than that of the Chinese shi. That is, the scope of deletion licensed by the Chinese shi is indeed larger than that by the other Chinese auxiliaries and all the English auxiliaries including the do-support.

The other type of Chinese elliptical constructions involved in this seminar is called Object-ellipsis, the construction of which contains a stranded verb followed by an empty object. English does not allow a remnant verb followed by an empty element but Japanese does. This Chinese elliptical construction is considered as a VP-ellipsis construction in previous literature but, in this research, following Xu (2003) and Li (2005, 2007), it is analyzed as a construction involving an object-ellipsis, analogous to the Japanese counterpart. The similarities between Chinese and Japanese on one hand and English on the other can be accounted for the parametric differences on the Theta-feature Strength proposed by Boskovic and Takahashi (1998), stating that the Theta-features in English are strong whereas those in Chinese and Japanese are weak.

Based on the cross-linguistic differences between VP-ellipsis and object-ellipsis in Chinese, English and Japanese, an experiment will conducted to investigate whether L2 speakers are able to integrate the syntactic knowledge and discourse information in off-line and on-line tasks. In the experiment both off-line and on-line tests will be used to test the L2 learners' mental representation and the real-time processing performance on the constructions in question.

Owing to that the collection of data is still in progress, data analysis and discussion will not be included in the presentation, in which the experiment design of the study, including the research questions, instruments, test items, will be the main focus.

For further information, contact:

Lulu Zhang
PhD Student, Chinese Studies
Department of East Asian Studies