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Volume 56, Issue 5


Asymmetries of null subjects and null objects in L1-English and L1-Japanese learners’ Chinese

Hui Chang
  • Corresponding author
  • Institute of Cross-linguistic Processing and Cognition,Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Shanghai, China
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/ Lina Zheng
Published Online: 2018-07-31 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ling-2018-0021


Based on the HSK Dynamic Composition Corpus, this study investigated the use of Chinese null arguments by advanced adult L1-English and L1-Japanese learners with Chinese native speakers as a baseline. Several asymmetries were found. First, the learners produced many more null subjects than null objects. Second, null subjects were mainly animate, while null objects were mainly inanimate. Third, more null subjects were used in non-matrix clauses than in matrix clauses. In addition, L1 did not seem to play a significant role in the learners’ use of Chinese null arguments, and the learners’ use Chinese null arguments was generally not native-like. Finally, it appears that null objects are not transferable or developmental and that infrequent use of null objects is universal in L2. It was argued that positive evidence in the target input as well as the nature of the subject and the object led to the asymmetric use of null subjects and null objects in L2 Chinese.

Keywords: asymmetry; null subject; null object; L2 Chinese


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About the article

Published Online: 2018-07-31

Published in Print: 2018-08-28

The research was supported by a General Research Fund from the Shanghai Planning Office of Philosophy and Social Science (Grant No. 2016BYY004) and a Key Research Fund from the National Planning Office of Philosophy and Social Science (Grant No. 17AYY007).

Citation Information: Linguistics, Volume 56, Issue 5, Pages 1141–1166, ISSN (Online) 1613-396X, ISSN (Print) 0024-3949, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ling-2018-0021.

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