Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa


  • Boping Yuan (a1) and Esuna Dugarova (a1)

Although wh-words generally stay in situ in Chinese wh-questions, they can be topicalized. However, the wh-topicalization is determined at the syntax-discourse interface and has to be governed by discourse conditions; only discourse-linked (D-linked) wh-words can be topicalized, but non-D-linked ones cannot. This article reports on an empirical study that investigated English speakers’ second language (L2) acquisition of Chinese wh-topicalization. The results of an acceptability judgment test indicate that advanced English speakers are sensitive to the discourse condition that governs the syntactic derivation of wh-topicalization in Chinese, as they were found to be able to make the distinction in their L2 Chinese by allowing D-linked, but not non-D-linked, wh-elements to topicalize. However, these results also indicate that wh-determiner phrases (DPs) and wh-noun phrases (NPs) differ in their sensitivity to presupposition background information in L2 Chinese wh-topicalization, and it is argued that the availability of the deictic feature in the wh-element involved is a variable affecting the D-linking properties of wh-elements in the development of L2 Chinese wh-topicalization, and this seems more likely to be a representational deficit than a processing problem.

Corresponding author
*Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Boping Yuan, Department of East Asian Studies, University of Cambridge, Sidgwick Avenue, Cambridge CB3 9DA, United Kingdom. E-mail:
Hide All
A. Belletti , E. Bennati , & A. Sorace (2007). Theoretical and developmental issues in the syntax of subjects: Evidence from near-native Italian. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory, 25, 657689.

A. Belletti , & C. Leonini (2004). Subject inversion in L2 Italian. In S. Foster-Cohen , M. Sharwood-Smith , A. Sorace , & M. Ota (Eds.), Eurosla Yearbook 4 (pp. 95118). Amsterdam: Benjamins.

C. Borgonovo , J. Bruhn de Garavito , P. Guijarro-Fuentes , P. Prévost , & E. Valenzuela (2006). Specificity in Spanish: The syntax/semantics interface in SLA. In S. Foster-Cohen & M. Krajnovic (Eds.), Eurosla Yearbook 6 (pp. 5778). Amsterdam: Benjamins.

L. Dekydtspotter , R. A. Sprouse , & R. Thyre (1999/2000). The interpretation of quantification at a distance in English-French interlanguage: Domain specificity and second language acquisition. Language Acquisition, 8, 265320.

H. Hopp (2004). Syntactic and interface knowledge in advanced and near-native interlanguage grammars. In S. Foster-Cohen , M. Sharwood-Smith , A. Sorace , & M. Ota (Eds.), Eurosla Yearbook 4 (pp. 6794). Amsterdam: Benjamins.

C.-T. J Huang . (1989). Pro-drop in Chinese: A generalized control theory. In O. Jaegglie & K. Safir (Eds.), The null subject parameter (pp. 185214). Dordrecht: Kluwer.

A. Sorace (2005). Selective optionality in language development. In L. Cornips & K. P. Corrigan (Eds.), Syntax and variation: Reconciling the biological and the social (pp. 5580). Amsterdam: Benjamins.

A. Sorace , & F. Filiaci (2006). Anaphora resolution in near-native speakers of Italian. Second Language Research, 22, 339368.

A. Sorace , & L. Serratrice (2009). Internal and external interfaces in bilingual language development: Beyond structural overlap. International Journal of Bilingualism, 13, 195210.

B. Yuan (2007a). Behaviours of wh-words in English speakers’ L2 Chinese wh-questions: Evidence of no variability, temporary variability and persistent variability in L2 grammars. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 10, 277298.

B. Yuan (2007b). Superficial native-likeness and fossilization in Japanese speakers’ L2 Chinese wh-questions: A lexical morphological feature deficit account. Second Language Research, 23, 329357.

B. Yuan (2009). Non-permanent representational deficit and apparent target-likeness in second language: Evidence from wh-words used as universal quantifiers in English and Japanese speakers’ L2 Chinese. In N. Snape , Y.-K. I. Leung , & M. Sharwood-Smith (Eds.), Representational deficits in SLA: In honour of Roger Hawkins (pp. 69103). Amsterdam: Benjamins.

B. Yuan (2010). Domain-wide or variable-dependent vulnerability of the semantics-syntax interface in L2 acquisition? Evidence from wh-words used as existential polarity words in L2 Chinese grammars. Second Language Research, 26, 219260.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Studies in Second Language Acquisition
  • ISSN: 0272-2631
  • EISSN: 1470-1545
  • URL: /core/journals/studies-in-second-language-acquisition
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 10
Total number of PDF views: 133 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 252 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 17th October 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.