LINGUIST List 24.4682

Fri Nov 22 2013

Diss: Mandarin, Pragmatics, Lang Acq, Psycholing, Syntax: Sperlich: 'The Acquisition of Long-Distance Reflexives ...'

Editor for this issue: Xiyan Wang <>

Date: 21-Nov-2013
From: Darcy Sperlich <>
Subject: The Acquisition of Long-Distance Reflexives in Chinese as an Interlanguage: An experimental study
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Institution: University of Auckland Program: The Linguistics Programme Dissertation Status: Completed Degree Date: 2013

Author: Darcy Sperlich

Dissertation Title: The Acquisition of Long-Distance Reflexives in Chinese as an Interlanguage: An experimental study

Dissertation URL:

Linguistic Field(s): Applied Linguistics                             Discipline of Linguistics                             General Linguistics                             Language Acquisition                             Linguistic Theories                             Pragmatics                             Psycholinguistics                             Syntax
Subject Language(s): Chinese, Mandarin (cmn)
Dissertation Director:
Frank Lichtenberk Yan Huang
Dissertation Abstract:

This thesis is concerned with the distinction between syntactic and
pragmatic modes of communication, along the lines proposed by Givón (1979).
More specifically Huang (2000) suggested that such a line be drawn between
languages depending on how they regulate their anaphora. To test this
distinction in my research, I assess the predictions of syntactic and
pragmatic theories of anaphora against how learners of Chinese, from
English and Korean backgrounds, acquire the Chinese simplex reflexive ziji.
In terms of anaphora, English is a syntactically oriented language whilst
Korean is pragmatically orientated, thus creating highly relevant
experimental conditions when assessing for positive and negative transfer
in their Chinese, which in turn regulates its anaphora largely by
pragmatics. This is conducted via an experimental approach, making use of
newly developed second language acquisition research methodology to
investigate a learner's interlanguage, yielding very robust data. The
results demonstrate that the English learners of Chinese transfer their
syntactic strategies, which hinders their acquisition of ziji (negative
transfer), while the Korean learners of Chinese transfer their pragmatic
strategies, which assists their acquisition of ziji (positive transfer).
The results also confirm that Chinese and Korean are indeed languages which
heavily regulate their reflexives by pragmatics, and English via syntax—but
even in English it is also shown pragmatics has a role to play. Ultimately,
the investigation conducted along an experimental approach shows that
theoretically, pragmatic approaches to anaphora suit pragmatic languages
better, and syntactic approaches suit syntactic languages better, which in
turn confirms the distinction between syntactic and pragmatic languages in
their anaphora along the lines of Huang (2000), and also adding further
credence to Givón's (1979) original proposal.

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