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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.

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Test sentences used by previous studies: Sentences (1), (2), and (3) from [8], and (4) from [11].
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pone-0073226-g008: Test sentences used by previous studies: Sentences (1), (2), and (3) from [8], and (4) from [11].

Mentions: In the antecedent-determining hierarchy of the Chinese reflexive (see Sec. 1), we explicitly state that although, in general, the antecedent of ziji is syntactically bound (i.e. local binding), syntactic binding can sometimes be overridden by perspective related to speaker- and listener- directed information, which gives rise to the so-called long-distance binding. In this regard, based on a range of long-distance binding tests, Anand offered a plausible account of how the semantic mechanism relating to perspective might work. In one of his tests, given a discourse-context (the context sentence in Figure 8), 29 Mandarin speakers were asked to judge the grammaticality of sentence (1) in Figure 8. The results showed that 16 of them considered this sentence ungrammatical and 13 grammatical. Based on a series of divergences in judgment among these speakers, he pointed out two different grammars used by these speakers for binding long-distance ziji in this sentence: (i) treating the reflexive as a Perspective-based shifting indexical, this grammar was used by those 13 speakers; and treating the reflexive as a discourse-dependent logophor, this grammar was used by those 16 speakers. As for the first grammar, Anand pointed out the two shifting indexicals (the pronoun and the ziji) must ‘work together’ to co-refer. Using sentences (2) and (3) in Figure 8, Anand went further to discuss multiple occurrences of ziji in a single sentence. According to him, the two zijis must be bound by one and the same antecedent, which could be nicely accounted for by the two semantic properties (shifting indexical and discourse-dependent logophor). For example, if one ziji in (2) refers to the speaker, as pointed out by Anand, the other ziji must do as well, and cannot refer to Lisi. As with (3), if the second ziji is anteceded by John, Mary or the speaker, the other ziji must be as well. This is simply because, when expressing a sentence, the speaker can and must select only one P(erspective)-Center which is a point-of-view that “referentially denotes the psychological perspective from which the sentence is situated (in analog to the deictic center for a sentence)” ([8], p. 137). Thus, the semantic requirement that two or more zijis must “shift together” naturally leads to the conclusion that long-distance Chinese reflexive binding is not syntactic but semantic in nature.


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)

Test sentences used by previous studies: Sentences (1), (2), and (3) from [8], and (4) from [11].
© Copyright Policy
Related In: Results  -  Collection

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

pone-0073226-g008: Test sentences used by previous studies: Sentences (1), (2), and (3) from [8], and (4) from [11].
Mentions: In the antecedent-determining hierarchy of the Chinese reflexive (see Sec. 1), we explicitly state that although, in general, the antecedent of ziji is syntactically bound (i.e. local binding), syntactic binding can sometimes be overridden by perspective related to speaker- and listener- directed information, which gives rise to the so-called long-distance binding. In this regard, based on a range of long-distance binding tests, Anand offered a plausible account of how the semantic mechanism relating to perspective might work. In one of his tests, given a discourse-context (the context sentence in Figure 8), 29 Mandarin speakers were asked to judge the grammaticality of sentence (1) in Figure 8. The results showed that 16 of them considered this sentence ungrammatical and 13 grammatical. Based on a series of divergences in judgment among these speakers, he pointed out two different grammars used by these speakers for binding long-distance ziji in this sentence: (i) treating the reflexive as a Perspective-based shifting indexical, this grammar was used by those 13 speakers; and treating the reflexive as a discourse-dependent logophor, this grammar was used by those 16 speakers. As for the first grammar, Anand pointed out the two shifting indexicals (the pronoun and the ziji) must ‘work together’ to co-refer. Using sentences (2) and (3) in Figure 8, Anand went further to discuss multiple occurrences of ziji in a single sentence. According to him, the two zijis must be bound by one and the same antecedent, which could be nicely accounted for by the two semantic properties (shifting indexical and discourse-dependent logophor). For example, if one ziji in (2) refers to the speaker, as pointed out by Anand, the other ziji must do as well, and cannot refer to Lisi. As with (3), if the second ziji is anteceded by John, Mary or the speaker, the other ziji must be as well. This is simply because, when expressing a sentence, the speaker can and must select only one P(erspective)-Center which is a point-of-view that “referentially denotes the psychological perspective from which the sentence is situated (in analog to the deictic center for a sentence)” ([8], p. 137). Thus, the semantic requirement that two or more zijis must “shift together” naturally leads to the conclusion that long-distance Chinese reflexive binding is not syntactic but semantic in nature.

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