City University of Hong Kong
Department of Chinese, Translation and Linguistics
Poverty of the Stimulus: Evidence from
Chinese-speaking Learners’ Interpretation of
English Elliptical Constructions
Dr. HUA Dongfan 花東帆
Shanghai International Studies University
Date: 02 May 2006, Tuesday
English Stripping and VP-Ellipsis (VPE) constructions (exemplified in (1) and (2)) differ with respect to their syntactic distributions and interpretive possibilities (Chao 1988, Hardt 1993, Lobeck 1995).
(1) John likes his uncle and Peter, too.
(2) John likes his uncle and Peter does, too.
Syntactically, VPE can appear in a wider range of structural configurations than Stripping; semantically, the interpretation of Stripping is syntactically constrained, and only allows the sloppy reading for the reconstructed pronoun. The interpretation of VPE, on the other hand, is syntactically or pragmatically regulated, and permits both the sloppy and the strict reading. Chinese has elliptical constructions similar to English VPE, though the exact status of Chinese null object constructions is still debated (Huang 1991, Xu 2003). There do not exist constructions similar to English Stripping in Chinese, however. This cross-linguistic difference between English and Chinese provides a ground for testing knowledge of abstract representation which is neither instantiated in the L1, nor easily inferable from the L2 input, in the acquisition of English by Chinese-speaking learners. The present study focuses on Chinese-speaking learners’ interpretation of English Stripping and VPE sentences like those in (1) and (2) above. 34 junior middle school and 57 high school learners of English, plus 5 adult native speakers of English, participate in a truth value judgment test. The findings of the experiment indicate that even the beginning-level learners may already have a fairly good knowledge of the interpretive contrast between English Stripping and VPE constructions, though information about such a contrast is underdetermined in both the learners’ L1 and the learners’ L2 input.
Time: 4:30pm - 5:30pm
Venue: B7603 (Lift 3, 7/F, Blue Zone), Academic Building, CityU of HK
HUA Dongfan is Associate Professor of English and Linguistics and the Dean of the College of International Education at Shanghai International Studies University, where he received his B.A. in English (1984). He has an MPhil in Applied Linguistics from Chinese University of Hong Kong (1991) and PhD in Linguistics from City University of Hong Kong (2000). He has published many articles and a book on linguistics and language teaching. He visited several HK universities in recent years as visiting scholar, including the Department of Chinese, Translation and Linguistics, City University of Hong Kong and the Department of Linguistics, Chinese University of Hong Kong. His research interests include comparative syntax, semantics and second language acquisition.
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