Chinese & Pro-drop Phenomema
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Last week I sent a question to the linguist-list asking about the Chinese
and its position in the Pro-drop phenomena. Thankfully, many people
contributed to the issue. Most of the responses stated that null-subjects
can be recovered either by morphosyntactic means( verbal agreement) as in
morphologically rich languages like Arabic and Spanish(Avrutin, Henry), or
through discourse processes like Chinese (Lachini). Boaretto, gratefully,
supplied his answer with very good examples (separate sentences as well as a
piece of composition) from Chinese. Reese, for instance, states that Chinese
and Japanese are pro-drop languages, while Arabic and Spanish are non
pro-drop. He looks at the issue from a non Chomskian way of thinking as he
states. I would like also to thank many people who sent me some names of
very relevant references about the issue. Finally, I would like to say that
this is the first time I write to the linguist-list, so I'm not aware of
many rules of this wonderful list and please excuse me for any
Here are the examples of (Boaretto) from Chen'Teh James Huang 1982: 359:
i) Zuotian lai-le yige xiansheng. (e)
yesterday come-Asp one Mr. tall-tall
(e)dai-le yifu jinbian de jinshi
wear-Asp one gold-rim DE near-sight glasses.
Wo wen Lisi ren-bu-renshi (e). Lisi shuo ta
bu renshi (e).
I ask Know-not-know say
he not know
Zhangsan shuo ta renshi (e). Ta shuo Xiazhang
gaosu ta yihou,
say he know he say
principal tell he after
cai zhidao (e) shi Xiaozhang de pengyou. (e) xing
then know is principal DE friend
'Yesterday came a gentleman. (He) wore a pair of near-sighted glasses in
gold rims. I asked Lisi if he Knew (him). Lisi said he did not know (him).
Zhangsan said that he knew (him). He said after the principal told him, he
realized that (he) was the principal's friend. (He) is surnemed Li.'
Some suggested reading:
Besnier, Niko. 1985. The local organization of zero anaphora in
Tuvaluan conversation. TE REO 28, 119-147.
[another language without much morphology]
Li, Charles N & Sandra A Thompson. 1981. MANDARIN CHINESE: A
FUNCTIONAL REFERENCE GRAMMAR. University of California Press:
My own interest is thatI have discussed the same feature in SIngapore
Colloquial English, e.g.
Gupta, Anthea Fraser. 1994. The Step-Tongue: Children's English in
Singapore. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.
huang, C.-T. J. (1984), On the distribution and reference of empty pronouns.
Linguistic Inquiry, 15, 531-74.
Check out Jim Huang's work 1984, 1989, 1991.
(1984) "On the distribution and reference of empty pronouns",
_Linguistic Inquiry_ 15, 531-574.
(1989) "Pro-drop in Chinese: a generalized control theory", in _The Null
Subject Parameter_, edited by Osvaldo Jaeggli and Ken Safir.
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