Edited by Leah Roberts, Gabriele Pallotti and Camilla Bettoni
[EUROSLA Yearbook 11] 2011
► pp. 191–217
The syntax and interpretation of embedded null subjects in Chinese, and their acquisition by English-speaking learners
This article reports an investigation of embedded null subjects in both L1 and L2 Chinese. Chinese null embedded subjects can refer either to a matrix subject or to a discourse entity. In the Government-Binding (GB) framework, these two possibilities resulted from the null subject being either pro or a variable. Neither pro nor a variable is compatible with the assumptions of the more recent Minimalist Program, however. This article proposes an alternative account for null embedded subjects in Chinese that is consistent with the Minimalist Program: deletion of the anaphor ziji and deletion of a topic under identity with appropriate antecedents. It then reports a study of knowledge of such deletion in the Chinese of L2 speakers. Although the existing literature has found that embedded null subjects are allowed by L2 learners of Chinese at early stages of development, no research has investigated whether they are interpreted in a target-like way by L2 speakers. A picture judgment task and a written interpretation task showed that English-speaking learners of high-intermediate proficiency in Chinese allow an embedded null subject to refer to the matrix subject, but not to a discourse entity. It is only at advanced proficiency that L2 speakers allow co-reference with both a matrix subject and a discourse entity. The implications of these results are discussed.
Cited by 3 other publications
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