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Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies

Rooms 8&9, Faculty of Asian & Middle Eastern Studies
Event date: 
Friday, 22 February, 2019 - 16:00 to 17:00

L2 Chinese Linguistics Seminar

Objects are obligatorily overt in English, but they can be covert in Chinese. The object of a Chinese sentence can be deleted if it refers to the topic of the sentence (Huang, 1984). However, it has recently been argued that some gaps in object position should be analyzed as the result of movement and VP ellipsis (Huang, 1991; G. Li, 2002; Liu, 2014). It has been argued that the object can be covert due to VP ellipsis in a sentence where the verb phrase is identical to that in the preceding coordinate sentence. However, when its verb differs from the verb in the preceding sentence, it is unacceptable to have a covert object in the second sentence (Liu, 2014) (see “the verbal identity condition”, Goldberg, 2005). This ongoing study investigates whether English native speakers who learn Chinese as their second language (L2) show developmental progress in the use of Chinese covert objects.

To achieve this goal, the study used a cross-modal picture-description task (CPT) that made use of structural priming. An acceptability judgment task (AJT) was also included. The study found that L2 beginners tended to produce complete sentences without covert objects even if they were exposed to priming sentences where objects were phonetically silent. Priming effects were not evident until later stages of L2 development (i.e. at intermediate and advanced levels). It is found in the AJT that all learner groups can accept covert objects in the verbal-identity condition. This finding is consistent with the incremental model of L2 speech production mechanisms that states that the development of L2 speech production mechanisms is incremental in nature and that derivations, such as ellipsis, are not accessible in L2 speech production until the later stages of L2 development (Yuan & Zhang, 2018). 


Goldberg, L. M. (2005). Verb-stranding VP ellipsis: A cross-linguistic study (Doctoral dissertation).
Huang, C. T. J. (1984). On the distribution and reference of empty pronouns. Linguistic inquiry, 531.
Huang, C. T. J. (1991). Remarks on the status of the null object. Principles and parameters in comparative grammar, 56-76.
Liu, C. M. L. (2014). A modular theory of radical pro drop (Doctoral dissertation). Harvard University.
Yuan, B & Zhang, L (2018). An Incremental Model of L2 Speech Production mechanisms: Developmental Evidence from Structural Priming of Object Ellipsis in L2 Chinese Speech Production. Oral presentation at 18th international symposium processability approaches to language acquisition (PALA)

Professor Boping Yuan: