Complex verbal predicates in school-age Mandarin heritage bilingual children
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AbstractDivergent patterns in the heritage language as compared to the monolingual baseline have been attributed to, among others, influence from the societal majority language and reduced input conditions (Benmamoun, Montrul & Polinsky, 2013). Along this line, this study investigates the roles of cross-linguistic influence and heritage language input in the development and maintenance of Mandarin Chinese by school-age children in England. We included in this study horizontal comparisons between the child’s heritage language (Mandarin) and the societal dominant language (English), as well as vertical comparisons between the child and their parents’ heritage language (Mandarin). In this we present a new research paradigm to study the language of older child heritage speakers, which is a missing link between child early bilingual grammars and adult endstate heritage grammars (Montrul, 2016).
We elicited knowledge of Mandarin receptive vocabulary and Mandarin/English narratives (frog stories) by 27 child heritage speakers (aged 4 to 14) in England, as well as Mandarin narratives by their Mandarin-speaking parents as baseline controls. In this paper, we examine the structural properties of three complex yet prominent verbal structures in Mandarin: the ba-construction (AGENT-ba-PATIENT-VP), the passive construction (PATIENT-bei-AGENT-VP) and the V-de-XP construction (e.g. xia-de-pao dao shu shang qu “got so scared that (he) climbed up the tree”).
Quantitative results revealed differential acquisition patterns between structures. Despite the lack of structural equivalent in English, the ba-construction remains productive in the children (3.57%), corresponding to its high frequency in the parents (5.14%). The passive construction, in spite of its lower frequency in the parental input (1.22%), was produced by the children in 0.54% of the predicates, probably enhanced by their knowledge of the English passive (1.94%). The V-de-XP construction, however, is completely missing from the children’s Mandarin, which is likely to be the consequence of lacking a similar morphosyntactic device in English (Huang, Li & Li, 2009) and relatively lower frequency in the input (1.56%). Qualitative differences between the child and the parents in the three structures were also found and discussed. Our study clearly shows that grammatical structures in the heritage language are subject to interactions between cross-linguistic influence and properties of the input.
All Author(s) ListZiyin Mai, Lucy Xia Zhao, Virginia Yip
Name of ConferenceThe 3rd International Conference on Heritage/Community Languages
Start Date of Conference15/02/2018
End Date of Conference17/02/2018
Place of ConferenceLos Angeles, California, US
Country/Region of ConferenceUnited States of America
LanguagesEnglish-United States

Last updated on 2018-23-10 at 12:31