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  • 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:
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Studies in Second Language Acquisition
  • ISSN: 0272-2631
  • EISSN: 1470-1545
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