A Corpus-based Analysis on the Use of Existential Sentences between Chinese Students and Native Speakers 基于英语语料库的中国学生和本族语使用者对于存现句使用的研究 SUN Jing Zhao Xueai Foreign Languages Department of Northwestern Polytechnical University
Outline • Introduction • Literature Review • Methodology • Result and Discussion • Conclusion and Limitation
Introduction The Existential Sentence is a certain special sentence pattern which bears important difference between Chinese and English. • This study focused on comparing the use of the existential sentence between Chinese learners and native speakers, aiming at finding out reasons that result in those difficulties for Chinese students and providing possible solutions to the problem. For Chinese students, they may find it is quite confusing when they try to employ the English existential sentence under many conditions.
Literature Review 1. Definition: An Existential sentence is a special sentence pattern which conveys the idea of existence, appearance or disappearance of humans, animals or things (Zhang Zhenbang, 1997). 2. Basic Structure: there + V + NP + (locative Adverbial + Temporal Adverbial)” (Zhang Zhenban, 1992) 3. Features: Gu Yang (1997) has generalized the features of the English existential sentence as follows: 1) the verbs in existential sentence are unaccusative. They are different from not only the transitive verbs which can follow Noun phrases (NPs) directly, but also from common intransitive verbs. 2) NPs are to the right of verbs, and they agree with the verbs in both person and quantity. 3) The NPs following the verbs are non-referential.
4. Previous Studies From generative grammarians: Chomsky : in the generation process of the existential sentence, the first step is to move the NP after the verb; and adding there to the former subject place is the second step. From functional linguists: Halliday: there in the existential sentence is the unmarked theme which serves as the point of departure of the new message and the Noun Phrases work as rheme in which the theme is developed.
5. Chinese Existential Sentence Basic pattern: location/time word + existential verbs + NP No functional equivalent word to the English there. 6. Theoretical reasons: Rod Ellis: second language acquisition is strongly influenced by the learner’s first language and the L1 gets in the way or interferes with the learning of L2, such that features of the L1 are transferred onto the L2
Methodology 1. Research questions: 1) How do native speakers employ existential sentences when necessary? 2) What will Chinese learners often do with existential sentences? 3) Compared with native speakers, what are the problems or drawbacks when Chinese learner use the existential sentence?
2. Corpus approach Corpora in this study a. College Learner English Corpus (CLEC) which is the Subcorpus of Chinese Learner English Corpus It contains thousand pieces of composition of different level students from non-English major Band 4 test, Band 6 test and English major TEM 4 and TEM 8. For none-English major part, there is altogether about 30,000 word as well as 20,000 words for the English major students’ work. b. British Native Corpora (BNC) The corpus contained a broad range of different language styles which is not specifically restricted to any particular subject field, register or genre. So that different types of text could be compared and contrasted with each other
3. Data analysis Free-paid concordance programmes Wordpilot 2002 and online concordance website Variation in English Words and Phrases (VIEW/BNC) The concordance programmes can find all the occurrence of there in both corpora. In addition, the occurrence of searched word there is displayed within its surrounding context.
Three aspects of the statistic analysis will be conducted towards both corpora. 1) key word there concordance. 2) frequency statistics. 3) Chinese learner there categorization
Results and discussion 1. Results The data got through computer is a just rough material which need to be arranged manually through observation to make it more valuable. Principles for data arranging: 1) Getting rid of those tokens with obvious spelling mistakes. 2)Eliminating those theres working as referential pronouns that result in none existential sentences.
Part of the tables: Table 1 Most frequently used verbs with there
To CLEC, the results have been subdivided according to different level students, among them ST3 is writing work of none English major band 4 level: For ST3, 722 occurrences have been found, summarized information as follows: Table 2
2. Discussion 1) Native speakers tend to use the existential sentence pattern more flexibly. For example 1) came out, moreover, in the spring of 1988, there appeared in Britain a kind of memoir entitled The Facts-A Novelist's 2) or England at soccer matches and in public houses. But there remains a strong respect for the religious leadership of the protestant --; 3) means formed a very tolerable avenue to the fire." There follows a description of the austere conditions for travellers. But when
2) Two problems for Chinese learners a. the overuse of there + be structure. possible reasons: Firstly, there be pattern was initially introduced to Chinese learner when talking about existential sentence Secondly, there be sentence has more close meaning to Chinese existential concept word “you”, then it is more naturally for those Chinese learners to adopt such sentence pattern. b. the use of there have pattern. possible reasons: Caused by the confusing understanding of different functions of the word there. In Chinese, there is no such a concept which is similar to there in the existential sentence
Possible solutions: learner’s strategies First, monitoring is the principle strategy responsible for correcting, which belongs to production strategies. Second, communication strategies are psycholinguistic plans which exist as part of the language user’s communicative competence. Third, Learners are also need to be aware of the possibility of using existential sentence whenever is necessary and they should be instructed by their teachers
Conclusion and limitations Through the study, we find native speakers often use existential sentence pattern more flexible than Chinese language learners. And compared with native speaker, the biggest problem with Chinese students using is overuse of there be pattern and misuse of there have pattern mainly due to the negative transfer of their L1 and misunderstanding of the function of there.
limitations To the definition of existential sentence The limited capacity in dealing with computer and lack of tools