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The University of Southampton
Modern Languages and LinguisticsPart of Humanities

'The effect of computational complexity on L1 transfer: evidence from L2 Chinese attitude-bearing wh-questions.' Seminar

17:00 - 19:00
12 May 2015
Highfield Campus, Building 46, Lecture Theatre B (2003) University of Southampton SO17 1BJ

For more information regarding this seminar, please email Ying Zheng at .

Event details

Part of the annual seminar series for Centre for Linguistics, Language Education and Acquisition Research (CLLEAR). Open to all.

This talk reports on an empirical study of attitude-bearing wh-questions in English speakers’ second language (L2) Chinese. Although English and Chinese wh-questions are different in that the wh-word in the former moves to the sentence initial position while that in the latter stays in situ, the two languages share some characteristics in their attitude-bearing wh-questions. It is widely assumed in L2 research that first language (L1) structures similar to or the same as those in the target language can facilitate the course of L2 acquisition but L1 structures which are different from the target language interfere with successful L2 acquisition. However, the findings in this study show that wh-movement in English wh-questions is not transferred into their L2 Chinese and that the similarities between English and Chinese have very limited facilitating functions in English speakers’ handling of Chinese attitude-bearing wh-questions. The findings here support Yuan’s (2001) argument that L1 transfer is a relative phenomenon in L2 acquisition and can be accounted for on the basis of Prévost et al.’s (2014) analysis that computation complexity can override L1 influence.



Speaker information

Dr Boping Yuan, University of Cambridge. Boping Yuan became a worker in a carpentry workshop in China after his secondary school, and was among those first groups of people who entered universities when universities re-opened in China after the ten-year Cultural Revolution. He read English language and literature as an undergraduate at Yantai Normal University (now Ludong University), China, from 1978 to 1982. Then he taught English as a foreign language at universities in China and on the China Central Television. In 1986, he entered Shanghai Jiaotong University, China, and did postgraduate studies in Applied Linguistics. In 1988, he got a scholarship from the British Council to study at Edinburgh University, where he first studied for an M.Sc. in Applied Linguistics and then for a Ph.D. in Linguistics and Applied Linguistics. In 1992, he came to Cambridge, where he has been teaching Chinese language and linguistics, directing the modern Chinese language program as well as supervising graduate students in developmental Chinese linguistics. He also provides services for international academic journals and organizations, which include being the vice President (2005-2008) and executive member (2008-present) of the Executive Committee of The International Society for Chinese Language Teaching.

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