Chapter 3. The emergence of sentence Topic in a Topicprominent language
The present study investigates the L2 developmental course of the sentence Topic in a Topic-prominent language – Mandarin Chinese. It examines the structural, the semantic and the discourse-pragmatic aspects of the Topic development, thereby focusing on the word order, the semantic feature of definiteness and the information status of the Topic in the L2 speech data of three adult L2 Mandarin learners of English background. The results show that the structural development of the Topic begins with the canonical order in which the Topic is identified with the Subject, and progresses toward the non-canonical order in which the Topic role is taken by the Object. Although the Topic element is largely encoded with the [+definite] feature, there is evidence to suggest a general lack of awareness for the semantic requirements for the Topic, as well as issues in the understanding of the contextual contrast between the Subject-topic and the Object-topic structures such as the <i>ba</i>-Object construction.