Topic-comment constructions in L1-Chinese learners' English

Yicheng Rong, Hui Chang, Candice Chi Hang Cheung

Research output: Unpublished conference presentation (presented paper, abstract, poster)Conference presentation (not published in journal/proceeding/book)Academic researchpeer-review


Given the typological differences betweenChinese and English, the question ariseswhether and how topic-prominent (TP) featuresaffect the English development of L1-Chineselearners. The present study explores thisquestion by examining the non-target-likestructures surfacing in learners' interlanguage.200 essays were randomly selected from theSpoken and Written English Corpus of ChineseLearners, taking two factors into consideration:English proficiency level and production form(written and oral). One major manifestation ofinterlanguage structures (i.e. topic-commentconstructions, categorized into six types) wastagged, and the processes by which thestructures are formed were analyzed to explorethe relative difficulty of unlearning them. Thestudy revealed that as learners' Englishproficiency improves, the incidence ofstructures with TP features decreases(intermediate learners: 3.77%; advanced:2.30%), approximating their incidence in thesubject-prominent language English, fewerstructures with TP features are found in thelearners' oral (4.76%) than their written (1.31%)production, and the frequencies of six types oftopic-comment construction differ markedly. Inlight of our findings, we propose a hierarchy forthe difficulty of unlearning TP features.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 2018
Event32nd Pacific Asia Conference on Language, Information and Computation, PACLIC 2018 - Hong Kong, Hong Kong
Duration: 1 Dec 20183 Dec 2018


Conference32nd Pacific Asia Conference on Language, Information and Computation, PACLIC 2018
Country/TerritoryHong Kong
CityHong Kong

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Computer Science (miscellaneous)

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