Principal investigator: Stephen
Co-investigators: Elaine Francis, Purdue University
Conrad Perry, University of Hong Kong
Virginia Yip, Chinese University of Hong Kong
The project focuses on a set of word order patterns
which are found in Cantonese and some other varieties of Chinese, but are
otherwise rare in the languages of the world. It seeks to explain aspects
of word order using a newly developed theoretical framework which focuses
on how speakers of the language process incoming speech and formulate sentence
structures in real time. Predictions based on this model will be formulated
for a set of sentence structures in Cantonese, and tested using (a) quantitative
evidence from a computerized database of spoken Cantonese recently created
by the researchers, and (b) experimental methods including listening comprehension
and imitation tasks.
Involving interdisciplinary collaboration between linguistics and cognitive psychology, the findings of the project will have implications for the relationship between grammar and language processing in general. It is hoped to provide partial solution to some properties of Chinese grammar which have remained unexplained by existing models. The work also has the potential to illuminate related problems in child language development and to suggest further work in this area.