Cue Competition between Animacy and Word Order: Acquisition of Chinese Notional Passives by L2 Learners


Based on the Competition Model (Bates & MacWhinney, 1978; MacWhinney, 2005; MacWhinney, 2012), the present study investigates L2 cue strategies in the acquisition of Chinese notional passives by English-speaking and Japanese-speaking learners. Two experiments were conducted to examine both the comprehension and production of Chinese notional passives. The main findings included: 1) L2 learners’ acceptability of notional passive increased with improved Chinese proficiency but even advanced learners showed significant difference from Chinese native speakers; 2) L2 learners produced more notional passive sentences than bei-passive sentences and advanced learners showed no difference from Chinese native speakers; 3) Cross-linguistic influence seemed to affect L2 learners’ comprehension and production of Chinese notional passives. The results support the universality of animacy cue proposed by Gass (1987) but also suggest that word order and pragmatic factors may affect L2 learners’ cue strategies. The study also evidences the contribution of the input to the development of L2 cue strategies, which is in line with the predictions of the Competition Model.

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Wang, J. and Xu, C. (2015) Cue Competition between Animacy and Word Order: Acquisition of Chinese Notional Passives by L2 Learners. Open Journal of Modern Linguistics, 5, 213-224. doi: 10.4236/ojml.2015.52017.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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