Reconstruction in Chinese, English and French

Project: Research

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The project investigates reconstruction in constructions typically involving A-barmovement, whose configurations contain either a gap or a resumptive pronoun in argument position. The data are drawn primarily from Mandarin Chinese and English, and when relevant, compared with those in French. It uses the formal tools of linguistic theory and solicits new data as driven by theoretical concerns in the form of questionnaires for speakers of Mandarin Chinese. The purpose of the project is to shed some light on current theories about reconstruction. Empirically, despite Chinese being an intensively studied language, the investigation of reconstruction in the language, especially in structures with a resumptive pronoun, mostly is not very systematic, and the data it is based on are not particularly rich. Significantly, the data across different analyses appear to be inconsistent. Some data arguing for a particular view are not very well-chosen, and some apparently relevant facts are not considered. Theoretically, to the extent the analysis is correct, current work does not explain why the facts the way they are, for they do not relate the similarities and differences in reconstruction between languages to other similarities and differences. A comparative study of Chinese, English and French brings the work to a manageable level and yet provides a good overview of the similarities and differences across languages. The project investigates a range of constructions: questions, relative clauses, leftdislocation and topicalization and a spectrum of grammatical properties: island effects and various reconstruction effects including anaphor binding, variable binding, binding condition C, idiom fragments, quantifier scope and cross-over. Judgment for reconstruction effects is often quite delicate, and therefore needs to be carefully controlled for quantity and quality. We elicit grammaticality judgment of a sizeable pool of forty-five speakers on three different occasions, each of which is set apart from the others by a period of six weeks. The questionnaires consist of two sets, one for structures with a gap and one for structures with a resumptive pronoun. In addition, search in the corpus of the Peking University and Academia Sinica for naturally occurring data is also made to ensure the reliability of the data. The project has far-reaching consequences for the inventory of documented facts and for the understanding of the syntax-semantic interface. The data we consider constitute an enrichment of the data set. The discovery of grammatical principles giving rise to the observed data constitutes an understanding of the inner working of the language faculty.


Project number9042738
Grant typeGRF
Effective start/end date1/09/1815/07/20