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A Comparitive Study on the Use of Third Person Anaphora in Chinese among Chinese Native Speakers, English and Japanese Learners
Coherence in Chinese topic chain depends on topic continuity, and the level of continuity affects the types of third-person anaphora in topic chain. However, lack of research in this field makes teaching Chinese writing difficult. Chinese teachers often find intermediate level students having difficulty in organizing Chinese discourse, as they tend to overuse pronominal anaphora while lacking in zero anaphora. In this study, I will investigate third-person anaphora in Chinese topic chain by examining discourse written by English and Japanese learners of Chinese to see what form of pro-drop language transfer occurs in their language acquisition. A total of 60 subjects participated in the study. The subjects were divided into three groups,namely, 20 native Chinese speakers, 20 English learners of Chinese, and 20 Japaneselearners of Chinese. Each group of learners comprised of 10 intermediate level and 10 advanced level learners.The Japanese group was the control group to the English group, while the native Chinese group was the standard reference group. Data collection required participants to watch a 15-minute video and summarize it into 500- to 600-character compositions. The compositions were first examined for the percentage use of third-person anaphora and were then analyzed for topic continuity in topic chain to compare the anaphora performance among the three groups. Results show that there is a tendency for overused pronominal anaphora and missing zero anaphora in intermediate learners’ discourse. This is because the topic chain of their output is too short, which requires pronominal anaphora to maintain coherence. Advanced learners’ use of pronominal and zero anaphora is closer to Chinese native speakers because their length of topic chain is longer. Based on the above results in language transfer of topic chain, I suggest three model teaching plans that aim at the learner’s language level using third-person anaphora principles.
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