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Tsing Hua Journal of Chinese Studies
ISSN 0577-9170; DOI 10.6503/THJCS


Finiteness and Null Arguments in Child Cantonese

Vol. 29 No. 4   12/1999  


Finiteness and Null Arguments in Child Cantonese


Thomas Hun-tak Lee









Key words

Child Language, Chinese Cantonese, pro-drop


      Recent accounts of pro-drop based on studies of English and German lead one to expect certain distributional characteristics for Chinese child language. Parallel to what has been found for pro-drop in other languages, null subjects in Chinese child language may occur only in non-finite clause, and be prohibited in sentences with wh-phrases. Topic bound null subjects may be restricted to third person reference, and discourse-identified null subjects may only appear in main clause. Longitudinal data form Cantonese-speaking children fail to provide support for these predictions, suggesting that some of the principles used in current theories of pro-drop are not universal constraints that govern the initial stages of language development. The findings also shed light on fundamental differences between null-topic languages like German and Chinese, underscoring the need to critically rethink the analyses of pro-drop for adult Chinese, in particular the theories of Huang (1984, 1989).



Author: Thomas Hun-tak Lee
Genre: Article
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