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Academic Paper


Title: Wh- Topicalization at the Syntax-Discourse Interface In English Speakers’ L2 Chinese Grammars
Author: Boping Yuan
Institution: University of Cambridge
Author: Esuna Dugarova
Institution: University of Cambridge
Linguistic Field: Discourse Analysis; Language Acquisition
Subject Language: Chinese, Mandarin
Abstract: Although wh-words generally stay in situ in Chinese wh-questions, they can be topicalized. However, the wh-topicalization is determined at the syntax-discourse interface and has to be governed by discourse conditions; only discourse-linked (D-linked) wh-words can be topicalized, but non-D-linked ones cannot. This article reports on an empirical study that investigated English speakers’ second language (L2) acquisition of Chinese wh-topicalization. The results of an acceptability judgment test indicate that advanced English speakers are sensitive to the discourse condition that governs the syntactic derivation of wh-topicalization in Chinese, as they were found to be able to make the distinction in their L2 Chinese by allowing D-linked, but not non-D-linked, wh-elements to topicalize. However, these results also indicate that wh-determiner phrases (DPs) and wh-noun phrases (NPs) differ in their sensitivity to presupposition background information in L2 Chinese wh-topicalization, and it is argued that the availability of the deictic feature in the wh-element involved is a variable affecting the D-linking properties of wh-elements in the development of L2 Chinese wh-topicalization, and this seems more likely to be a representational deficit than a processing problem.

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This article appears IN Studies in Second Language Acquisition Vol. 34, Issue 4, which you can READ on Cambridge's site or on LINGUIST .



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