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Syntax-Discourse Interface in English Speakers' L2 Acquisition of Chinese Wh-topicalization
Boping Yuan and Esuna Dugarova
162-170 (complete paper or proceedings contents)


The wh-word in Chinese wh-questions can be topicalized, moving from the base-generated position to the sentence initial position. However, Chinese wh-topicalization involves an external interface between syntax and discourse, and only D(iscourse)-linked wh-words can undergo topicalization in Chinese. An empirical study was conducted to investigate whether English speakers are able to make a distinction in their L2 Chinese grammars between D-linked wh-words and non-D-linked wh-words by allowing only the former, but not the latter, to be topicalized. The results of an acceptability judgment test indicate that English speakers are, in general, able to topicalize D-linked wh-arguments in their L2 Chinese wh-questions and reject ungrammatical Chinese wh-questions where non-D-linked wh-arguments are incorrectly topicalized. This provides us with evidence that external interfaces are acquirable in L2. However, the group's success in establishing the syntax-discourse interface in their L2 Chinese wh-topicalization is not across the board, and English speakers' L2 grammars generally do not accept the topicalization of D-linked SHEI 'who' in Chinese wh-questions. It is argued in the paper that L2 interfaces should not be looked at in a holistic manner and must be examined in a more fine-tuned way as different variables are likely to be involved in L2 interfaces.

Published in

Proceedings of the 11th Generative Approaches to Second Language Acquisition Conference (GASLA 2011)
edited by Julia Herschensohn and Darren Tanner
Table of contents
Printed edition: $240.00