Pragmatic or Syntactic Ziji? Evidence from Language Transfer

Volume 17
Issue 4
Darcy Sperlich
This article aims to understand the place of syntax and pragmatics in regard to Chinese ziji. While there has been continued theoretical debate on this topic, there is little experimental evidence to verify whether syntax or pragmatics plays the defining role in the regulation of ziji. This study achieves this by investigating the interpretation of the long-distance reflexive ziji by English and Korean learners of Chinese. English learners of Chinese are hypothesized to negatively transfer their syntactic anaphoric strategies into their L2 Chinese, while Korean learners of Chinese are hypothesized to positively transfer their pragmatic anaphoric strategies in their L2 Chinese, as Chinese reflexive pronouns are pragmatically regulated. The data gathered includes antecedent judgements and psycholinguistic observations, finding that Korean learners of Chinese are at an advantage over their English counterparts. This is discussed against current syntactic and pragmatic anaphoric theory, arguing that this evidence supports the theory that ziji is pragmatic in nature.

Keywords: Chinese, ziji, transfer, syntax, pragmatics, binding, anaphora