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Bridging contrastive study and language acquisition research A corpus-based study of passives in English and Chinese. Richard Xiao z.xiao@lancaster.ac.uk. Overview of the talk. Corpora for contrastive study Passives in English and Chinese Passive errors in Chinese learner English.

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Bridging contrastive study and language acquisition researchA corpus-based study of passives in English and Chinese

Richard Xiao

z.xiao@lancaster.ac.uk

Penn State

overview of the talk
Overview of the talk
  • Corpora for contrastive study
  • Passives in English and Chinese
  • Passive errors in Chinese learner English

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parallel corpora no
Parallel corpora? No
  • Two types of multilingual corpora
  • Parallel corpus = source texts + translations
  • Some misunderstandings, e.g.
    • ‘translation equivalence is the best available basis of comparison’ (James 1980: 178)
    • ‘studies based on real translations are the only sound method for contrastive analysis’ (Santos 1996: i)
  • But…

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evidence of translationese 1
Evidence of translationese (1)
  • An unrepresentative special variant
  • A ‘third code’ (Frawley 1984: 168)
  • Four core patterns of lexical use (Laviosa 1998)
    • a relatively low proportion of lexical words over function words
    • a relatively high proportion of high-frequency words over low-frequency words
    • a relatively great repetition of most frequent words
    • less variety in most frequently used words

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evidence of translationese 2
Evidence of translationese (2)
  • Beyond the lexical level -
    • Normalization, simplification (Baker 1993/1999)
    • Explicitation (Øverås 1998)
    • Sanitization (Kenny 1998)
    • Aspect markers twice as frequent in L1 Chinese (McEnery & Xiao 2002)
  • Parallel corpora: unreliable for contrastive study

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comparable corpora yes
Comparable corpora: Yes
  • Comparable corpus = same sampling techniques + similarbalance and representativeness
  • Well suited for contrastive study
  • Some E-C contrastive studies
    • Aspect marking (e.g. McEnery, Xiao & Mo 2003)
    • Situation aspect (e.g. Xiao & McEnery (2004a)
    • Collocation and semantic prosody (e.g. Xiao & McEnery 2005)

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corpus data
Corpus data
  • Two English corpora
    • Freiburg-LOB (FLOB)
    • BNCdemo
  • Two Chinese corpora
    • Lancaster Corpus of Mandarin Chinese (LCMC)
    • LDC CallHome Mandarin Transcripts

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two major passives types in english
Two major passives types in English
  • Be vs. get-passives
    • Dynamic vs. stative
      • e.g. Go and get/*be changed! (BNCdemo)
    • Infinitival complements
      • e.g. they liked to be/*get seen to go to church (BNCdemo)
    • Contrast in overall frequencies
      • 955 vs. 31 instances of be-passives vs. get-passives per 100K words
    • Writing vs. speech
      • Normalised frequencies (per 100K words)
        • Be-passives: 854 (W) vs. 101 (S)
        • Get-passives: 5 (W) vs. 26 (S)

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long vs short forms by register
Long vs. short forms by register
  • Long vs. short passives
  • Distribution in speech & writing
  • Short passives more frequent in S than W
    • LL=209.225 for 1 d.f., p<0.001

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long vs short forms by passive type
Long vs. short forms by passive type
  • Get-passives are more likely than be-passives to occur in shortforms
    • LL=76.015 for 1 d.f., p<0.001
  • Agentsin get-passives Impersonal, e.g.
    • got caught by the police
  • Inanimate, e.g.
    • got knocked down by a car
  • Personal agents: informationally dense, semantically indispensable, e.g.
    • The bleeding fat girl, he got asked out by her. (BNC)

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adverbials in english passives
Adverbials in English passives
  • Passives with no adverbial are much more common than those with an adverbial – true for both be- and get-passives
  • Adverbials are more frequent in be- passives than get-passives
    • 17.7% of be-passives; 7% of get-passives
  • Less diversified in get-passives
    • Typically ‘have an intensifying or focusing role’ (Carter & McCarthy 1999: 53)
  • Proportions of be-passives with an adverbial are similar in S & W
    • 19.5% (S) vs. 17.3% (W)
  • BUT the proportion of get-passives with an adverbial is much greater in W than S
    • 15.2% (W) vs. 6.6% (S)

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collocation analysis
Collocation analysis
  • Observation of pragmatic meanings of get-passives is supported by collocation analysis
    • z score>3.0, frequency>3, L0-R1
  • Collocates of get-passives are more likely to show a negative pragmatic meaning
    • Negative get-passives: 46.5% in BNCdemo (one collocate in FLOB: married)
    • Negative be-passives: 27% in BNCdemo and 8% in FLOB
    • Get-passives NOT necessarily more frequently negative in S
      • Proportions of negative cases: 45.8% (W) vs. 37.3% (S)
        • Exceptionally high co-occurrence frequency of a few neutral collocates of get-passives in S (married, paid, dressed, changed)

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collocation vs style
Collocation vs. style
  • Get-passives are more informal in style
    • More restricted in collocation, more likely to refer to daily activities and be used in informal expressions
      • GET - dressed, changed, weighed, fed (i.e. eat), washed, cleaned
      • GET - pricked, hooked, mixed (up), carried (away), muddled (up), sacked, kicked (out), stuffed, thrown (out), chucked, pissed, nicked
    • Rarely found among the top 100 collocates of be-passives

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style vs distribution
Style vs. distribution
  • Stylistic difference > distribution
  • Be-passives: over 8 times as frequent in FLOB (A-R) as in BNCdemo (S)
    • Of written genres, more common in informative texts (A-J) than imaginative writing (K-R)
    • Exceptionally frequent in H & J (cf. Biber 1988)
  • Get-passives typically occur in speech and colloquial, informal genres
    • Over 5 times as frequent in speech as in writing
    • Of written genres, exceptionally frequent in E (leisure) & R.

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syntactic functions
Syntactic functions
  • Finite vs. non-finite
    • Finite: predicate
    • Non-finite: adjectival, adverbial, complement, object, subject
  • Typically used as predicates
    • 97% of be-passives and 96% of get-passives
    • Sometimes found in object and complement positions
    • Rarely used as subjects
  • Distribution of get-passives is more balanced across syntactic functions

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passives in chinese notional syntactic vs lexical
Passives in Chinese: Notional, syntactic vs. lexical
  • Marked (47%) vs. unmarked (53%) passives
    • Unmarked passives: notional or pseudo-passives
    • Topic sentences (topic + comment)
      • e.g. fan (meal)<*bei (PSV)> zuo-hao (do-ready) le (PERF) ‘The dinner is cooked (ready)’ (LCMC)
  • Syntactic vs. lexical passives
    • Passivised verbs do not inflect morphologically
    • Syntactic passive markers
      • Bei: the most frequent, ‘universal’ passive marker
      • Gei, jiao, rang: not fully grammaticalised, typically in colloquial genres & dialects
      • Wei…suo: archaic, only in formal written genres
    • Lexical passives: ai, shou(dao), zao(dao)
      • Inherently passive

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long vs short passives
Long vs. short passives
  • Bei and gei: in both long (40%, 43%) and short (60%, 57%) passives
  • Wei,jiao and rang: only in long passives
  • Shou and zao: more frequent in short (68%, 63%) than long (32%, 37%) passives
  • Ai: almost exclusively in short passives (97%)
  • Long passives: in speech and colloquial genres; short passives: typically in written genres such as J, H and G

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agent nps in syntactic vs lexical passives
Agent NPs in syntactic vs. lexical passives
  • Can be systematically interpreted as attributive modifiers of (nominalised) verbs in lexical passives, but cannot in syntactic passives, cf.
    • A) danshi (but) zhe (this) yi (one) jianyi (proposal) zaodao (suffer) Xide (West Germany) zongli (prime minister)<de (PRT)> jujue (reject/rejection) ‘But this proposal was rejected by the prime minister of West Germany’ (LCMC)
    • B) wo-men (we) na-ge (that-CL) che (car), bei (PSV) Xinhuan (Xinhuan) <*de (PRT)> nong-huai (ruin) le (PERF) ‘Our car was ruined by Xinhuan’ (CallHome)

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syntactic functions1
Syntactic functions
  • Most frequent in the predicate position
    • 76% of syntactic passives (74% of bei); 75% of lexical passives
  • Non-predicate uses
    • Attributive modifier: second most important syntactic function (14%)
    • Uncommon as subjects or complements

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interaction with aspect
Interaction with aspect
  • Interacting with aspect closely (Xiao and McEnery 2004b)
    • Syntactic passives convey an aspectual meaning of result
  • Bare passives account for the largest proportions of syntactic (40%) and lexical (78%) passives
  • BUT perfective -le is not uncommon in both syntactic (17%) and lexical (11%) passives
  • RVCs and resultative de-structure are more common in syntactic passives; bare forms are more frequent in lexical passives
  • Passivised verbs in bare forms are uncommon in syntactic passives, especially when they function as predicates

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pragmatic meanings1
Pragmatic meanings
  • Typically express a negative pragmatic meaning
    • “usually of unfavourable meanings” (Chao 1968: 703)
      • Universal passive marker bei derived from its main verb usage, meaning ‘suffer’ (Wang 1957)
      • Under the influence of Western languages, Chinese passives are no longer restricted to verbs with an inflictive meaning
    • Proportions of negative pragmatic meaning
      • Syntactic passives: gei (68%), rang (67%), bei (52%), jiao (50%), wei (19%)
      • Lexical passives: ai (100%), zao (100%), shou (65%)
    • Collocates of bei-passives
      • 51% negative, 39% neutral, 10% positive

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distribution across genres
Distribution across genres
  • 11 times as frequent in writing as in speech
  • Most common in religious writing (D) and mystery/ detective stories (L)
    • Mystery/detective stories are often concerned with victims who suffer from various kinds of mishaps or what criminals do to them
    • In religions, human beings are passive animals whose fate is controlled by some kind of supernatural force
  • Least frequent in news editorials (C) and official documents (H)
  • Universal passive marker bei
    • Contrast in proportions between long vs. short passives typically less marked in 5 types of fiction (K-P), humour (R) and speech (S)
    • Predominantly negative in speech (S); more often than not negative in news editorials (C), mystery/detective stories (L), and adventure stories (N); but rarely negative in official documents (H) and academic prose (J)

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contrast overall frequencies
Contrast: Overall frequencies
  • Passive constructions are significantly more common in English than in Chinese (nearly 10 times as frequent)
    • English (be-)passives occur in both dynamic and stative situations; Chinese passives can only occur in dynamic events
    • Chinese passives typically have a negative pragmatic meaning; English passives (esp. be-passives) do not
    • Unmarked notional passives are more common in Chinese
      • Chinese topic-oriented; English subject-oriented
    • English tends to over-use passives, esp. in formal writing (Quirk 1968; Baker 1985); Chinese tends to avoid syntactic passives wherever possible
      • Chinese uses topic sentences instead

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contrast long vs short passives
Contrast: Long vs. short passives
  • The agent NP in the long passive follows the passivised verb in English but precedes it in Chinese
  • Short passives are predominant in English; long passives are not uncommon in Chinese
    • Passives are used in English to avoid mentioning the agent
    • The agent must normally be spelt out in Chinese passives
      • This constraint has become more relaxed nowadays
  • When it is difficult to spell out the agent…
    • Passives are used in English
    • In Chinese, a vague expression such as ren/youren ‘someone’ or renmen ‘people’ is used instead of using passives

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contrast pragmatic meanings
Contrast: Pragmatic meanings
  • Chinese passives are more frequently used with a negative pragmatic meaning than English passives
    • Chinese passives were used at early stages primarily for unpleasant or undesirable events; the semantic constraint on the use of passives has become more relaxed, especially in writing
    • Rank order of meaning categories
      • English: neutral > negative > positive
      • Chinese: negative > neutral > positive
    • In this respect, the get-passive is more akin to Chinese passives than the unmarked be-passive – more stylistically oriented

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contrast syntactic functions
Contrast: Syntactic functions
  • Passives are most frequently used in the predicate position in English and Chinese
  • Proportion of passives used as predicates in English (over 95%) is much greater than that in Chinese (76% on average)
  • More frequent in the object than subject position in both languages
  • More frequent as attributive modifiers in Chinese; more frequent as complements in English
  • Passives in Chinese (esp. bei-passives) are more balanced across syntactic functions than English passives
  • Chinese passives in the predicate position typically interact with aspect but this interaction is not obvious in English

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contrast distribution
Contrast: Distribution
  • Unmarked English (be-)passives more frequent in informative (A-J) than imaginative writing (K-R); get-passives more common in speech and informal written genres
    • H and J show very high proportions of passives in English, but they have the lowest proportions of passives in Chinese
      • Unmarked English passives function to mark objectivity and a formal style but Chinese passives do not have this function
  • In Chinese, wei typically occurs in formal written genres; jiao, rang and gei are used in colloquial genres
    • Mystery/detective stories (L) and religious writing (D) show exceptionally high proportions of passives in Chinese
  • Different distributions are associated with different functions
    • English (be-)passives: an impersonal, objective and formal style
    • Chinese passives: ‘inflictive voice’

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contrast typological differences
Contrast: Typological differences
  • Klaiman’s (1991: 23) 3-way classification of grammatical voices
    • Basic (unmarked) voice: active/middle voice
    • Derived/non-basic (marked) voice: passivisation
    • Pragmatic voice: involving ‘assignment to some sentential arguments of some special pragmatic status or salience’ (Klaiman 1991: 24)
  • English passive: derived voice
  • Chinese passive: pragmatic voice

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corpora
Corpora
  • CLEC: the Chinese Learner English Corpus
    • One million words
    • Essays
    • Five proficiency levels
  • LOCNESS: the Louvain Corpus of Native English Essays
    • 324,304 words
    • Essays
    • British A-Level children and British/American university students

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long vs short passives1
Long vs. short passives
  • Long passives are slightly more frequent in Chinese learner English
    • Long passives in CLEC
      • 9.14%: 888 out of 9,711
    • Long passives in LOCNESS
      • 8.44%: 461 out of 5,465
  • Not statistically significant
    • LL=2.184, 1 d.f., p=0.139

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pragmatic meanings2
Pragmatic meanings
  • Passives are more frequently negative in Chinese learner English
    • CLEC
      • Negative: 25.7%
      • Positive: 5.9%
      • Neutral: 68.4%
    • LOCNESS
      • Negative: 16.8%
      • Positive: 4.4%
      • Neutral: 78.8%
    • LL=7.4, 2 d.f., p=0.025

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passive errors vs learner levels
Passive errors vs. learner levels
  • Learners at higher levels generally make fewer passive errors
  • Four major types of passive errors
  • Under-use is the most important error type
  • Learning curve is not a straight line, especially for difficult items

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error types vs learner levels
Error types vs. learner levels
  • Error types are associated with learner levels
    • LL=51.774, 12.d.f., p<0.001
  • Similar learner groups make similar types of errors
    • ST2 >> ST3: statistically significant (LL=27.303, 3 d.f., p<0.001)
    • ST3 >> ST4: not significant (LL=6.955, 3 d.f., p=0.073)
    • ST4 >> ST5: statistically significant (LL=18.563, 3 d.f., p<0.001)
    • ST5 >> ST6: not significant (LL=6.987, 3 d.f., p=0.072)

ST2 ST3/ST4 ST5/ST6

(High (Junior/Senior (Junior/Senior

school non-English English major

students) major students) students)

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under use l1 transfer
Under-use: L1 transfer
  • Borne out of the contrastive analysis
  • Confirmed by the CLEC-LOCNESS comparison
  • Result of L1 transfer
  • Typically occur with verbs whose Chinese equivalents are not normally used in passives, e.g.
    • A birthday party will hold in Lily’s house. (ST2)
    • …or our efforts will waste. (ST4)
    • The woman in white called Anne Catherick. (ST5)
  • Also under the influence of Chinese topic sentences
    • The supper had done. (ST2)

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over use three major types
Over-use: three major types
  • Intransitive verbs used in passives, e.g.
    • A very unhappy thing was happened in this week. (ST2)
    • Their friendships are not died off with the passing of time (ST4)
    • I was graduated from Zhongshan University (ST5)
  • Misuse of ergative verbs, e.g.
    • …the science <sic. secince> is developed quickly (ST4)
    • …infant mortality was declined (ST4)
  • Passive training effects, e.g.
    • …many machines <sic. machine> and appliances <sic. appliance> are usedelectricity as power (ST5)
    • Because they have been masteredeverything of this job… (ST4)

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misformation l1 interference
Misformation: L1 interference
  • Result of L1 interference
  • Related to morphological inflections
    • Passivised verbs do not inflect in L1 Chinese
  • Tend to use uninflected verbs or misspelt past participles in passives, e.g.
    • The door is wrap with two coats of iron (ST5)
    • His relatives can not stop him, because his choice is protect by the laws. (ST6)
    • Since the People’s Republic of China <sic. china> was found on October 1, 1949… (ST2)
    • I was moving at that time, but I didn't cry. (ST2)

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auxiliary omission l1 interference
Auxiliary omission: L1 interference
  • Result of L1 interference
    • Unmarked ‘notional passives’ are abundant in Chinese
  • Tend to omit or misuse auxiliaries in passives, e.g.
    • …and we will not satisfied with what we have done. (ST4)
    • In China, since the new China established, people’s life has gotten <sic. goten> better and better. (ST3)
    • I am not a smoker, but why dowe forced to be a second-hand smoker? (ST5)

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conclusions
Conclusions
  • While passive constructions express a basic passive meaning in both English and Chinese, they also show a range of differences which are associated with their different functions in the two languages
  • Most passive-related errors made by Chinese learners of English can be accounted for from a contrastive perspective
  • A combination of contrastive study and learner corpus analysis can bring insights into language acquisition research

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thank you
Thank you!

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references 1
References (1)
  • Baker, M. (1993) ‘Corpus linguistics and translation studies’. In M. Baker, G. Francis & E. Tognini-Bonelli (eds.) Text and technology (pp. 233-52). Amsterdam: Benjamins.
  • Baker, M. (1999) ‘The role of corpora in investigating the linguistic behaviour of professional translators’. International Journal of Corpus Linguistics 4: 281-98.
  • Baker, S. (1985) 1985. The Practical Stylist [6th ed.]. New York: Harper & Row.
  • Biber, D. (1988) Variation across Speech and Writing. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Carter, R. and McCarthy, M. (1999) ‘The English get-passive in spoken discourse’. English Language and Literature 3(1): 41-58.
  • Chao, Y. (1968) Grammar of Spoken Chinese. Berkeley: University of California Press.
  • Frawley, W. (1984) ‘Prolegomenon to a theory of translation’. In W. Frawley (ed.) Translation: Literary, linguistic and philosophical perspectives (pp. 159-75). London: Associated University Press.

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references 2
References (2)
  • James, C. (1980) Contrastive Analysis. London: Longman.
  • Kenny, D. (1998) ‘Creatures of habit? What translators usually do with words?’ Meta 43(4).
  • Klaiman, M. (1991) Grammatical Voice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Laviosa, S. (1998) ‘Core patterns of lexical use in a comparable corpus of English narrative prose’. Meta 43(4).
  • McEnery, A and Xiao, Z. (2002) ‘Domains, text types, aspect marking and English-Chinese translation’. Languages in Contrast 2(2): 211-31.
  • McEnery, A., Xiao, Z. and Mo, L. (2003) ‘Aspect marking in English and Chinese’. Literary and Linguistic Computing 18(4): 361-78.
  • Mcenery, A., Xiao, Z. and Tono, Y. (2005) Corpus-Based Language Studies. London: Routledge.
  • Øverås, S. (1998) ‘In search of the third code: An investigation of norms in literary translation’. Meta 43(4).

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references 3
References (3)
  • Quirk, R. (1968) The Use of English [2nd ed.]. London: Longman.
  • Santos, D. (1996). Tense and Aspect in English and Portuguese: A contrastive semantical study. PhD thesis. Universidade Tecnica de Lisboa.
  • Wang, L. (1957) ‘Hanyu beidongju de fazhan (Development of Chinese passives)’. Yuyanxue Luncong (Studies in Linguistics) Vol. 1. Beijing: Commercial Printing. House.
  • Xiao, Z. and McEnery, A. (2004a) ‘A corpus-based two-level model of situation aspect’. Journal of Linguistics 40(2): 325-63.
  • Xiao, Z. and McEnery, A. (2004b) Aspect in Mandarin Chinese. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
  • Xiao, Z. and McEnery, A. (2006) ‘Collocation, semantic prosody and near synonymy: a cross-linguistic perspective’. Applied Linguistics. [In press]
  • Xiao, Z, McEnery, A. and Qian, Y. (2006) ‘Passive constructions in English and Chinese: a corpus-based contrastive study’. Languages in Contrast 3(1).

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