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Durham e-Theses
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The use of English referring expressions by Chinese children living in Britain

Wu, Changming (2001) The use of English referring expressions by Chinese children living in Britain. Masters thesis, Durham University.



This thesis examined the English referring expressions used by the Chinese children living in Britain and English children matched by English language ability to the Chinese children. Two adult groups (one Chinese and one English) were used as controls. Two experiments were conducted in a year time apart, involving 166 participants in total. In the experiments, participants described stories presented in pictures to listeners who could (El) or could not (E2) see the pictures. The stories in El described two protagonists of different genders, those in E2 described two of the same gender. Predictions concerned the use of appropriate referring expressions on first mention of novel entities and on second mention of familiar entities; whether a thematic subject strategy was used; whether Chinese children's choice of specific referring expressions (Bare Nouns, Demonstratives, and Zero Anaphors) was influenced by their first language; and which factors (Fist Language, English Language Ability, Cognitive Ability, and Age) were significant predictors of the children's use of English referring expressions. The main results were as follows: Both groups of children used definite references on second mention more frequently than they used indefinite references on first mention. There were hardly any transcripts showing use of a thematic subject strategy. Instead, participants used either an explicit strategy, in which full explicit noun phrases were used throughout or a strategy in which the subject slot is reserved for the current topic, which may change a the discourse proceeds. English parents predominantly used this second strategy. Regression analyses showed that cognitive ability was the best predictor of first mention indefinites in both experiments and of second mention definites in El, where definite articles were appropriate for identifying the referent. English language ability was the best predictor of second mention definites in both experiments. These results were discussed in relation to previous studies and the notion of mental models. It was concluded that Chinese children did not use an inter-language that contained information about specific words or phrases. The major effect of first language may be discourse level strategies, but this was only appeared with the parents.

Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Award:Master of Arts
Thesis Date:2001
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:01 Aug 2012 11:33

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