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Research seminar

L2 acquisition of gapping constructions in Mandarin Chinese by English speakers

13 March 2019, 16:00 – 18:00

Room 8-9, Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies (FAMES), Cambridge

This study focuses on the L2 acquisition of gapping-like constructions in Chinese by English speakers. Unlike English, the distribution of gapping in Chinese is restricted by semantic properties of the VP and the second nominal in the gapped construction, for instance, generosity (Paul 1996) and eventuality (Liu & Han 2015) of VP, existentiality and definiteness of the second nominal in the gapped sentence (Tang 2001), and etc. As seen in the examples in (1), gapping in Mandarin Chinese is unacceptable when VP is generic (Paul, 1996). 

(1) *Zhangsan xihuan pingguo, Lisi [ ] juzi.

    Zhangsan like   apple    Lisi  orange

 ‘Zhangsan likes apples and Lisi oranges.’

However, gapping in English is not subjective to such constraints, as seen in the English translation in (1). In the current study, I discuss the following questions:

I. Whether the mechanism that achieves the gapping-like constructions in Mandarin Chinese is the same mechanism that achieves canonical gapping in English.

II. If not, which syntactic operation accounts for gapping-like constructions in Mandarin Chinese?

III. If English learners of Chinese are sensitive to the semantic constraints on the distribution of gapping in Chinese.

IV. If so, are they constrained in the same degree as native speakers? 



Paul, W. (1996). Verb raising in Chinese. Studies in the Linguistic Sciences, 26(1-2), 255-270.

Tang, S. W. (2001). The (non-) existence of gapping in Chinese and its implications for the theory of gapping. Journal of East Asian Linguistics, 10(3), 201-224.

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Mr Tongkun Liu

Miss Chenyang Zhang

16:00 - 18:00


Room 8-9, Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies (FAMES), Cambridge

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