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Double-Gapped Restrictive Relatives in Chinese: A Syntactic or a Processing Account?
Chiu-Hung Chen and Juana M. Liceras
50-57 (complete paper or proceedings contents)


This study investigates first language attrition of Chinese immigrants in Canada, focusing on the relativization of null arguments in double-gapped relative clauses. According to Huang (1984), assigning referents to specific empty categories is guided by syntactic competence whereas Cao (2001) argues that processing strategies provide a better account on this phenomenon. In the present study the authors hypothesize that if native speakers' choices concerning the relativization of null objects were guided by their competence grammar, learning a second language would not cause L1 attrition. However, if their judgments were guided by processing principles, L1 attrition would occur. The results show a strong preference for object relativization. Neither the subjects' length of stay or the frequency of contact with English nor the age of arrival play a significant role in terms of the subjects' competence with regard to null arguments in relative clauses. In other words, this aspect of grammar does not seem to be vulnerable to attrition. The authors conclude that their results support Huang's competence account over Cao's processing account.

Published in

Proceedings of the 7th Generative Approaches to Second Language Acquisition Conference (GASLA 2004)
edited by Laurent Dekydtspotter, Rex A. Sprouse, and Audrey Liljestrand
Table of contents
Printed edition: $280.00