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Who is who? Interpretation of multiple occurrences of the Chinese reflexive: evidence from real-time sentence processing.

Shuai L, Gong T, Wu Y - PLoS ONE (2013)

Bottom Line: The general interpretation patterns observed showed that the majority of participants associated both zijis with the same local antecedent, which was consistent with Principle A of the Standard Binding Theory and previous experimental findings involving a single ziji.In addition, mixed readings also occurred, but did not pattern as claimed in the theoretical linguistic literature (i.e., one ziji is bound by a long-distance antecedent and the other by a local antecedent).Based on these results, we argue that: (i) mixed readings were due to manifold, interlocking and conflicting perspectives taken by the participants; and (ii) cases of multiple occurrences of ziji taking distinct antecedents are illicit in Chinese syntax, since the speaker, when expressing a sentence, can select only one P(erspective)-Center that referentially denotes the psychological perspective in which the sentence is situated.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Massachusetts, United States of America.

ABSTRACT
Theoretical linguists claim that the notorious reflexive ziji 'self' in Mandarin Chinese, if occurring more than once in a single sentence, can take distinct antecedents. This study tackles possibly the most interesting puzzle in the linguistic literature, investigating how two occurrences of ziji in a single sentence are interpreted and whether or not there are mixed readings, i.e., these zijis are interpretively bound by distinct antecedents. Using 15 Chinese sentences each having two zijis, we conducted two sentence reading experiments based on a modified self-paced reading paradigm. The general interpretation patterns observed showed that the majority of participants associated both zijis with the same local antecedent, which was consistent with Principle A of the Standard Binding Theory and previous experimental findings involving a single ziji. In addition, mixed readings also occurred, but did not pattern as claimed in the theoretical linguistic literature (i.e., one ziji is bound by a long-distance antecedent and the other by a local antecedent). Based on these results, we argue that: (i) mixed readings were due to manifold, interlocking and conflicting perspectives taken by the participants; and (ii) cases of multiple occurrences of ziji taking distinct antecedents are illicit in Chinese syntax, since the speaker, when expressing a sentence, can select only one P(erspective)-Center that referentially denotes the psychological perspective in which the sentence is situated.

Show MeSH
An example sentence having three occurrences of ziji.(a)–(m) are possible interpretations of the three zijis. “?” indicate those interpretations might not be widely accepted by native Mandarin speakers.
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pone-0073226-g002: An example sentence having three occurrences of ziji.(a)–(m) are possible interpretations of the three zijis. “?” indicate those interpretations might not be widely accepted by native Mandarin speakers.

Mentions: And more importantly, if HLL’s syntactic characterization of multiple occurrences of ziji is on the right track, we should accordingly be able to predict the outcomes of interpreting sentences like the one in Figure 2, in which there are three zijis. If this sentence is amenable to a treatment like HLL’s, we might follow their analysis and predict that in addition to the three possible readings in which all zijis just take the same antecedent ((a)–(c) in Figure 2), there could be a great variety of possible outcomes of comprehending the sentence, including those mixed readings (e.g. (d)–(m) in Figure 2).


Who is who? Interpretation of multiple occurrences of the Chinese reflexive: evidence from real-time sentence processing.

Shuai L, Gong T, Wu Y - PLoS ONE (2013)

An example sentence having three occurrences of ziji.(a)–(m) are possible interpretations of the three zijis. “?” indicate those interpretations might not be widely accepted by native Mandarin speakers.
© Copyright Policy
Related In: Results  -  Collection

Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC3760907&req=5

pone-0073226-g002: An example sentence having three occurrences of ziji.(a)–(m) are possible interpretations of the three zijis. “?” indicate those interpretations might not be widely accepted by native Mandarin speakers.
Mentions: And more importantly, if HLL’s syntactic characterization of multiple occurrences of ziji is on the right track, we should accordingly be able to predict the outcomes of interpreting sentences like the one in Figure 2, in which there are three zijis. If this sentence is amenable to a treatment like HLL’s, we might follow their analysis and predict that in addition to the three possible readings in which all zijis just take the same antecedent ((a)–(c) in Figure 2), there could be a great variety of possible outcomes of comprehending the sentence, including those mixed readings (e.g. (d)–(m) in Figure 2).

Bottom Line: The general interpretation patterns observed showed that the majority of participants associated both zijis with the same local antecedent, which was consistent with Principle A of the Standard Binding Theory and previous experimental findings involving a single ziji.In addition, mixed readings also occurred, but did not pattern as claimed in the theoretical linguistic literature (i.e., one ziji is bound by a long-distance antecedent and the other by a local antecedent).Based on these results, we argue that: (i) mixed readings were due to manifold, interlocking and conflicting perspectives taken by the participants; and (ii) cases of multiple occurrences of ziji taking distinct antecedents are illicit in Chinese syntax, since the speaker, when expressing a sentence, can select only one P(erspective)-Center that referentially denotes the psychological perspective in which the sentence is situated.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Massachusetts, United States of America.

ABSTRACT
Theoretical linguists claim that the notorious reflexive ziji 'self' in Mandarin Chinese, if occurring more than once in a single sentence, can take distinct antecedents. This study tackles possibly the most interesting puzzle in the linguistic literature, investigating how two occurrences of ziji in a single sentence are interpreted and whether or not there are mixed readings, i.e., these zijis are interpretively bound by distinct antecedents. Using 15 Chinese sentences each having two zijis, we conducted two sentence reading experiments based on a modified self-paced reading paradigm. The general interpretation patterns observed showed that the majority of participants associated both zijis with the same local antecedent, which was consistent with Principle A of the Standard Binding Theory and previous experimental findings involving a single ziji. In addition, mixed readings also occurred, but did not pattern as claimed in the theoretical linguistic literature (i.e., one ziji is bound by a long-distance antecedent and the other by a local antecedent). Based on these results, we argue that: (i) mixed readings were due to manifold, interlocking and conflicting perspectives taken by the participants; and (ii) cases of multiple occurrences of ziji taking distinct antecedents are illicit in Chinese syntax, since the speaker, when expressing a sentence, can select only one P(erspective)-Center that referentially denotes the psychological perspective in which the sentence is situated.

Show MeSH