Volume 20, Issue 1
  • ISSN 0155-0640
  • E-ISSN: 1833-7139
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Overall, learners of Mandarin tend to use overt nouns and pronouns to a greater extent than native speakers (Charters 1996b), but what specifically gives rise to this discrepancy? Differences in the distribution of ellipsis in learner and native speaker texts is investigated: both frequency and discourse contexts of syntactic structures associated with ellipsis are compared. Learners made no errors of ellipsis in structures where ellipsis is grammatically prescribed, nor did they appear to avoid such syntactic structures. In fact, the discrepancy in overall frequencies arises in contexts where ellipsis is optional; it is a consequence not of differing syntactic choices, but of differing pragmatic choices in comparable syntactic contexts. No single syntactic structure emerges as a significant contributor to the different rates of optional ellipsis overall. However, when individual variation is taken into account, it is clear that some learners use ellipsis only in syntactic contexts where it is permissible in English, and most learners use elliptic syntactic structures in a narrower range of discourse contexts than is typical of native speaker use.


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