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chinese l2 wu120217

Department of East Asian Studies

Research Students' Seminars on Second Language Chinese
Is the Functional Category functioning?

The second seminar of 2011-12 will take place at 4pm on Friday, 17th Februry, 2012 in Room 7 (ground floor) at the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies. The speaker will be Emma WU, who will present her PhD project on English-speaking learners' L2 Chinese grammars with respect to the universal quantifier dou (see abstract below).

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!


Drawing upon the analyses in Wu (1999) and Xu (1997), dou is demarcated as the head of the functional category, DistP. It is argued that it carries strong quantificational feature which triggers the move of the candidates it quantifies to [Spec, DistP]. Its distributional function is two-fold: it licenses some elements that it quantifies with universal property for one and empowers some others to have distributional reading for two. By so arguing, the view held conventionally that all in English is the 'equivalent' of dou is challenged as all is categorized as a floating quantifier, in the vein of Adger (2003). Hence it is contended that DistP is lacking in English.

Functional categories have been claimed to be accountable for linguistic variations, amongst others, by Fukui (1986) and Chomsky (1995). In relation to L2 acquisition of functional categories, no consensus has been reached by researchers as to whether they can be fully represented in L2 interlanguage grammars in the cases that they are not instantiated in learners' L1. The acquisition of the functional category DistP involves not only syntax proper but also its interfacing with semantics and pragmatics.

Set against the backdrop noted above, an empirical study on adult English-speaking learners' L2 Chinese acquisition of DistP was carried out. The study was designed with a view to verifying or falsifying the following theories: 1. features to do with functional categories in the UG inventory becomes nonexistent in adult's acquisition of L2, the Failed Functional Feature Hypothesis proposed by Hawkins and Chan (1997); 2. narrow syntactic properties in L2 acquisition are acquirable as a complete unit, but interface characteristics concerning syntax and another cognitive domain may not be wholly acquirable, the Interface Hypothesis put forward by Sorace and Filiaci (2006).

Owing to the fact that the collection of data is still in progress, partial rather than whole datasets and results will be shown at the presentation, in which the test design of the study will be the main focus.

For further information, contact:

Ziyin Mai
PhD Student, Chinese Studies
Department of East Asian Studies