The use of headed and headless DE-marked referential expressions in Chinese mother–child conversation

Tuyuan CHENG, Hin Tat CHEUNG, Shuanfan HUANG

Research output: Contribution to journalArticles

Abstract

The development of children’s use of referential expressions in discourse is of much interest to researchers in language acquisition. One type of referential expression in Mandarin, the headed and headless DE-marked referential forms, lacks clear understanding in terms of how discourse factors might influence the use of these DE-marked expressions. This study details one longitudinal case of the use of Mandarin headed and headless DE-marked referential expressions by a mother–child dyad in their natural conversation. The qualitative and quantitative analyses of the data show that the use of headed and headless DE-marked forms is not determined solely by structural properties. Findings indicate that the DE-marked referential forms are associated with the information status assumed by the interlocutors during the process of communicating. When a new and unfamiliar referent is introduced into discourse for the first time, the head in the DE-marked forms is used. However, once a referent has been treated as given information, the givenness of the referent alone cannot explain the occurrence and non-occurrence of the head in the DE-marked referential forms. We argue that the headed and headless DE-marked referential forms are also frequently linked with discourse-pragmatic factors, such as communicative acts and interactive roles undertaken and played by the interlocutors. Moreover, the child’s developmental progress of DE-marked referential expressions aligns with the communicative acts she intends to perform in discourse, and it reflects the child’s competence as an active participant in discourse. Our stance is that structural factors may affect overall use of various DE-marked expressions, but the use of headed and headless DE-marked forms should be a discourse matter. Copyright © 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)435-458
JournalLanguage Sciences
Volume33
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 2011

Citation

Cheng, T., Cheung, H., & Huang, S. (2011). The use of headed and headless DE-marked referential expressions in Chinese mother-child conversation. Language Sciences, 33(3), 435-458. doi: 10.1016/j.langsci.2010.09.004

Keywords

  • Discourse referencing
  • Mandarin
  • Child language
  • Prenominal modification

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