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  • Xiaoshi Li (a1)


This study investigates subject pronominal expression in second language Chinese and compares learner usage with patterns found in their first language. The results show that (a) overt pronouns are used more for singular, +animate subjects than plural, –animate ones; (b) switch in subject surface form favors overt pronouns; (c) English and Russian speakers use overt pronouns more than Korean and Japanese speakers; (d) statements favor overt pronouns most, followed by questions and then imperatives; (e) females use overt pronouns more than males; (f) conversations slightly favor overt pronouns, whereas narratives favor null pronouns; (g) higher proficiency learners across language groups use more null subject referents than do lower proficiency learners; and (h) nonspecific subject referents promote null subjects. Comparison results show that learner patterns are similar to those of their native speaker peers on most dimensions explored except that they tend to overuse overt pronouns. That is, the learners have acquired the subject pronoun use pattern in Chinese rather successfully but need to further develop their sociolinguistic competence regarding null pronoun usage.


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*Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Xiaoshi Li, Department of Linguistics and Germanic, Slavic, Asian, and African Languages, Michigan State University, B-259 Wells Hall, 619 Red Cedar Road, East Lansing, MI 48824. E-mail:


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