Dissertation > Language, writing > Chinese > Grammar > Modern,modern syntax > Syntax

A Comparative Study of the Syntax-discourse Interface of Left Dislocation Construction in English and Chinese

Author WangJiZuo
Tutor MeiDeMing
School Shanghai International Studies University
Course English Language and Literature
Keywords Left Dislocation (LD) Syntax-discourse Interface Discourse Function TOP
CLC H146.3
Type PhD thesis
Year 2012
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It has long been noticed that there appear to be correlations between informationstructure and grammatical form. The occurrence of normally clause-internal material inutterance-initial position, as in Left Dislocation (LD) constructions, is an example ofpragmatically motivated syntax. The organization of a text has some influence on theformation of a single sentence; a well-formed sentence can contribute to the effectivenessof a text. Since form-function associations are arbitrary, a single discourse function may beassociated with different syntactic forms and a single syntactic form may be associatedwith different discourse functions. And the discourse functions of some syntactic forms aremainly explored in the domain of syntax-discourse interface.LD, as a marked construction syntactically, is of great significance theoretically andpractically. However, academic studies on the syntax-discourse interface of theconstruction and the logic behind it are still at the budding stage. The mainstream scholarsin this respect assert that the relation between syntactic form and discourse function isarbitrary and language-specific. There have been a fair number of researches that havebeen done preliminarily on LD in English, while only a few on those in Chinese which arebased on simple comparison of the construction between the two languages. The purposeof this dissertation is to study and compare the syntactic forms and discourse functions ofLD construction in both English and Chinese, and analyze the interface of them.On careful examination of the corpus, it is found that the form and function of LDs inEnglish and Chinese are similar only in the prototypical form of the construction and in themain, general functions. Formally, a closer examination reveals that left-dislocatedconstituents play a variety of roles in the grammar of the two languages. The mostprominent difference lies in the frequency and variety of left-dislocated structure in bothlanguages. Functionally, in English, the use of LD is somehow restrained to informalnaturally-occurring conversation, and is associated with colloquial registers. On thecontrary, the use of LD in Chinese is pervasive of all oral genres, independently of theregister and genre. LDs are frequent in spontaneous natural conversation, but are also found in formal genres.The formal divergences between the use of left-dislocated constituents in English andChinese can be further expounded under the light of the distinction between the pragmaticmode and the syntactic mode. While Chinese uses word order flexibility to mark thetopic-comment relation, English offsets its rigid word order with the use of stress andsubject-predicate constructions. As for the the interface study of LD in the two languages,the implications of it are largely concerned with Prince’s (1998) core claim: that theconnection between syntactic form and discourse function are language-specifc andarbitrary. Through her original classifcation of LD constructions into three types, Princeattempted to show that the syntactic construction LD plays no single discourse-related role.The addition of eight other type of left dislocation in Chinese serves to lend furthercredence to this claim—left dislocation seems to serve a wide variety of discoursefunctions and is motivated by a range of discourse circumstances.The significance of this dissertation is threefold: firstly, this dissertation uses authenticcorpus materials in discussing LD construction; secondly, the study adopts a new andtentative syntax-discourse interface perspective; thirdly, the study applies a comparativeapproach in analyzing the functions of LD in both English and Chinese.

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