Grammatical notions like that of ‘subject’ are widely used in second language teaching. However, while the grammatical subject is generally regarded as easily identifiable in the Indo-European languages of Europe, as e.g. English, French or Italian, and as a key element in determining word order, the application of this notion to Chinese has given rise to endless controversies (e.g. Li & Thompson 1976, Tsao 1990, Li 1990, LaPolla 1993, Bisang 2006). On the other hand, pragmatic-discourse considerations such as topichood, world knowledge, context and semantic notions such as agency and causation, as well as the roles of participants in the described event, appear to be more significant in Chinese as factors determining word order and interpretation of utterances (e.g. Chafe 1976, Li & Thompson 1981, Xu & Langendoen 1985, Chu 1999, Huang 1994, LaPolla & Poa 2006). In this paper, we first provide an overview of the main differences concerning subjecthood, topichood and word order in English, Italian and Chinese, highlighting their impact on learner varieties of Chinese. We then summarise the state-of-the-art of research on subject and topic, with a focus on Chinese. Lastly, we discuss the implications of these theoretical issues for Chinese as a Second/Foreign Language teaching: to this end, we propose a critical overview of how the issue of topichood and subjecthood are treated in a sample of recent English-language, Italian-language and Chinese-language coursebooks and reference materials, and propose some recommendations for instructors.

Topic and subject in Chinese and in the languages of Europe: comparative remarks and implications for Chinese as a Second/Foreign Language teaching

Morbiato, Anna
Writing – Original Draft Preparation
;
Basciano, Bianca
Writing – Original Draft Preparation
;
Arcodia, Giorgio F.
Writing – Original Draft Preparation
2020

Abstract

Grammatical notions like that of ‘subject’ are widely used in second language teaching. However, while the grammatical subject is generally regarded as easily identifiable in the Indo-European languages of Europe, as e.g. English, French or Italian, and as a key element in determining word order, the application of this notion to Chinese has given rise to endless controversies (e.g. Li & Thompson 1976, Tsao 1990, Li 1990, LaPolla 1993, Bisang 2006). On the other hand, pragmatic-discourse considerations such as topichood, world knowledge, context and semantic notions such as agency and causation, as well as the roles of participants in the described event, appear to be more significant in Chinese as factors determining word order and interpretation of utterances (e.g. Chafe 1976, Li & Thompson 1981, Xu & Langendoen 1985, Chu 1999, Huang 1994, LaPolla & Poa 2006). In this paper, we first provide an overview of the main differences concerning subjecthood, topichood and word order in English, Italian and Chinese, highlighting their impact on learner varieties of Chinese. We then summarise the state-of-the-art of research on subject and topic, with a focus on Chinese. Lastly, we discuss the implications of these theoretical issues for Chinese as a Second/Foreign Language teaching: to this end, we propose a critical overview of how the issue of topichood and subjecthood are treated in a sample of recent English-language, Italian-language and Chinese-language coursebooks and reference materials, and propose some recommendations for instructors.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/10278/3721769
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