How Chinese learners of L2 European Portuguese interpret null and overt pronouns in forward and backward anaphora

Yi Zheng, Paula Luegi, Ana Madeira, Gabriela Matos

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This study investigates how Chinese learners who acquire European Portuguese (EP) as second language (L2) interpret the null and overt pronouns in forward and backward anaphora structures in adverbial sentences with just one referent. We conducted a questionnaire study both in EP and in Chinese, testing not only the preferred interpretations for EP, but also the interpretation of Chinese native-speakers in similar conditions. Results show that the native EP speakers exhibit different interpretative biases for null and overt pronominal subjects in both forward and backward anaphora. Chinese native-speakers show similar interpretation only in backward anaphora (null/subject, overt/non-subject), showing a subject preference interpretation with both null and overt pronouns in forward anaphora conditions. L2 learners show an overall preference to interpret both the null and the overt pronoun as referring to the subject referent, although this preference is not clear or reversed in overt pronoun backward anaphora conditions. Results are in line with previous studies in EP (Madeira et al., 2012; Lobo et al., 2017), but add to these studies the possibility that this pattern may be explained by L1 influence.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)291-321
Number of pages31
JournalRevista Linguíʃtica
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2018



  • anaphora resolution
  • European Portuguese
  • Chinese
  • second language acquisition

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