Xiong, Xueliang
Fudan University
Shanghai, China

Department of Linguistics
University of Oregon

Xueliang Xiong
610 W. 21st Ave.
Eugene, OR 97405

email address: xiong@oregon.uoregon.edu

Strand: lexico-grammar Other

Title: How do we view the 'zero phenomenon' in the Chinese lexico-grammatical system?

On many Chinese self-panegyrical discourse occasions (such as job interviews, promotion briefings and so on) where zero phenomenon (mostly at the subject position and occasionally at the object position) becomes most conspicuous, realization of lexico-grammatical system conflicts with ideological intrusion. This is so because self-effacement in self-panegyrical discourse as part of Chinese virtue culturally inherited even from the Confucian days takes advantage of the flexibility of the Chinese language system in terms of realization. For example., within an academic promotion briefing context, statistics from my work shows that zeros (contra empty categories in general) appear overwhelmingly predominant, and pronominal chains such as: "0i - ...- 0i" (0-Initial Chain), "NPi - ... - 0i -- ... -- NP2 -...-0i" (Insertable Chain) boast of a very high frequency of occurrence. These phenomena cannot be sufficiently accounted for by any existing syntactic, semantic or pragmatic theories so we have to go elsewhere for solutions..

In this work, I have compared and contrasted Tomlin's lab observations (Tomlin 1983, 1987, 1989) with mine and have found that Tomlin's findings basically result from consideration of the activated memory influenced by a number of external on-line interactional factors that might intrude in the language production processes. Although the ratio between Tomlin's nominals and pronominals bears some striking resemblance to my ratio between "wo", "benren" or "ziji" and "zero", there are four fundamental differences: (1) Tomlin's pronominal chain is influenced by psychological factors within the context of his priming experiments but my referential chain is primarily determined by ideological factors in real discourse. (2) As ideological factors are mental representational elements, the referential chain between an initiating linguistic element and zeros is theoretically infinite in a discourse of manageable length but Tomlin's chain is limited due to the limit of memory. (3) Tomlin's chain is syntactical so it does not permit intercepting insertion of another element but mine does for ideological reasons. (4) while Tomlin's chain begins with a lexical NP, my chain could surprisingly start with a zero so this zero and all the other succeeding zeros refer to a certain referent, quite often the speaker, as a contextually determined antecedent or an exophoric element.

Confronted with such peculiarities and absence of lexico-grammatic theories ready for the phenomenon, I tentatively offer an ideologico-pragmatic explanation of my own to fill the gap.