PREFERRED ARGUMENT STRUCTURE IN MANDARIN CHILD LANGUAGE
This study investigated whether Preferred Argument Structure (Du Bois, 1987) is characteristic of early child Mandarin (2;2-3;1), and whether the patterns observed in child Mandarin can be explained by the account of human-ness suggested by Everett (2009). The results showed that Mandarin child language conforms to the constraints of Preferred Argument Structure, but that it does not support the related hypothesis of an ergative structuring of discourse. Both the factor of human-ness (Everett, 2009) and that of role types contribute to the accusative patterning observed in the data. The results are discussed in relation to children’s sensitivity to the association between discourse and grammar, and to the referential strategies used by adults in conversations with young children.
Key words: Preferred Argument Structure, child language, Mandarin