LINGUIST List 8.1345

Tue Sep 23 1997

Sum: Innateness Theory on Binding in Chinese

Editor for this issue: Martin Jacobsen <>


  1. Guo Jieke, Summary on Innateness Theory on Binding in Chinese

Message 1: Summary on Innateness Theory on Binding in Chinese

Date: Sun, 21 Sep 1997 17:35:36 +0800
From: Guo Jieke <>
Subject: Summary on Innateness Theory on Binding in Chinese

Some time ago I posted queries concerning my experiment on innateness
of the binding theory in Chinese. Many thanks to the following
colleagues who responded:
Brian Ulicny, Steven Shaufele, Isabelle Barriere, Jenny Dalalakis,
Michael Starke and Dan Alford, who have provided me with either
detailed references or their own suggestions, all of which I have
found very helpful.

Their comments are as follows:

1. As Chomsky says in his "Knowledge of Language", "There is good
reason to believe that the language faculty undergoes maturation."
That is to say, the reason for 16% of the older children's ability to
identify both potential antecedents of "ziji" in the given sentences
could possibly due to their more developed cognitive power of
reasoning. And this more developed cognitive power might result from
their having more experience in using the language and in hearing it
as used by others. Or, the reason may simply be that they are better
or more confident at "imagining" situations of both the more salient
and the less salient interpretations, and thus more able to identify
linguistic ambiguity. But evidence for this "maturation hypothesis"
doesn't seem to be strong enough until further studies (i.e. in the
case of unbiased adults,etc.) have been carried out.

2. Perhaps the acquisition of certain parameters that influence the
availability of both antecedents have not been acquired yet
(i.e. parameters determining the binding domain,etc., which are not
innate.) That is, to say that the binding theory is innate does not
mean that every speaker can determine the possible antecedent of every
anaphor or pronoun at birth; this ability depends on the acquisition
of some parameters concerning the rest of the grammar which may not be
innate. However, so far as I can see, a more complicated point lies
in the fact that neither the longer nor the shorter binding relation
was uniformly preferred.

3. Maybe the problem I'm dealing with is basically a matter of
"performance" rather than "competence". Double checks may be needed.
I am continuing my work on the innateness of the binding theory and
long-distance binding in Chinese, and its accessibility to L2 learners
of Chinese as well.

 If you are interested, please keep in touch with me. Any suggestions
concerning this study are welcome!

I'm on the net again, so all feedback can be sent to me at or if this address doesn't work to who will relay it to me.

Best wishes!

Gao Hua
Foreign Languages Dept.
South China University of Technology
Guangzhou,510641 China
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