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Short or long distance? The processing of simple reflexive ziji by English learners of Chinese

Xu, Mengling (2018) Short or long distance? The processing of simple reflexive ziji by English learners of Chinese. PhD thesis, University of Leeds.

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Abstract

The interpretation of the Chinese simple reflexive ziji can be ambiguous between local vs. long-distance interpretation. Chinese features three verb types in relation to the interpretation of ziji: the introverted/self-oriented verb (VT1) only allow a local interpretation; the extroverted/other-oriented verb (VT2) only allow a long-distance interpretation; the ambiguous/context-dependent verb (VT3) allow both interpretations depending on the discourse-context. Hence, the current work focuses on how factors such as verb-semantic and discourse-context information influence the interpretation of ziji by a corpus study and a self-paced reading study. The corpus study examines the distribution of the three verb types, indicating that compared with VT1 and VT3, VT2 is used less with ziji. Because only VT2 provides unambiguous evidence for a long-distance interpretation of ziji, the variations of the three verb types in the input of Chinese will result in a protracted acquisition of the long-distance interpretation of ziji. Also, the role of verb-semantic orientation and discourse prominence affecting the interpretation of ziji is supported based on the corpus data. The self-paced reading study investigates how verb-semantic and discourse-context information used as retrieval cues guide the interpretation and real-time processing of ziji by native Chinese speakers and English-speaking learners of Chinese. The findings are as follows. English-speaking learners of Chinese are able to acquire the long-distance interpretation of ziji, even if the long-distance interpretation is ruled out by their L1 (English). With Chinese proficiency increasing, they allow less long-distance interpretation of ziji with VT1. In addition, although native Chinese speakers and English-speaking learners of Chinese are sensitive to both cues, they do not weigh the two cues in an equal way. In particular, native Chinese speakers rely more on the verb-semantic cue to interpret ziji, however, the discourse-context cue can over-rule the verb-semantic cue. Whereas English-speaking learners of Chinese rely more on the discourse-context cue (less on the verb-semantic) to interpret ziji. Also, with Chinese proficiency increasing, they become more reliance on the verb-semantic cue, however, their reliance on the discourse-context cue is not decreased. Moreover, English-speaking learners of Chinese are generally slower than native Chinese speakers during real-time processing of ziji. English-speaking learners of Chinese process more when they encounter the verb before ziji, while native Chinese speakers take longer time to process ziji and onwards. Furthermore, English-speaking learners of Chinese are more susceptible than native Chinese speakers to the retrieval interference when there is a conflict between the two cues. In conclusion, L2 acquisition of the long-distance interpretation of ziji by English-speaking learners of Chinese supports a probabilistic approach to L2 parameter (re)setting. Also, the interpretation and real-time processing of ziji by native Chinese speakers and English-speaking learners of Chinese supports a cue-based approach to language processing and comprehension.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: the Chinese simple reflexive ziji, long-distance, verb-semantic, discourse-context, cue-based memory retrieval, langauge processing
Academic Units: The University of Leeds > Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures (Leeds) > School of Languages Cultures and Societies (Leeds) > Linguistics & Phonetics (Leeds)
Depositing User: Dr Mengling Xu
Date Deposited: 05 Jun 2018 12:32
Last Modified: 05 Jun 2018 12:32
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/20369

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