Language and Development Seminar:Universal or Unique: The case of processing typologically distinct structures in Mandarin Chinese
Jinman Li (Cardiff)
Tuesday, 19 November 2019, 3pm to 4pm
New Radcliffe House Radcliffe Observatory Quarter Oxford OX2 6GG
Hosted by Yaling Hsiao
Different accounts, experience-based theories and memory- based theories, have been put forward to understand better the patterns of human sentence processing and proved to be successful in many previous studies largely on European languages. However, sometimes they are not mutually exclusive, and at other times they make different predictions. Furthermore, it remains unclear whether they can be equally applied to other languages around the world. In this talk, I focus on such typologically unique sentences as relative clauses and topic structures in Chinese to present a test case for evaluating the two main schools of accounts. Generally, our results of the series of experiments are consistent with the predictions of experience-based theories, but with little supporting evidence for memory-based theories. We argue that more types of languages, especially typologically distinct structures with similar functions, should be taken into consideration to advance the study of language processing universals.