The second language acquisition of the mandarin potential complement construction

Year of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Faculty of Arts

Principal Supervisor

Wakefield, John


Linguistic analysis (Linguistics), Mandarin dialects, Second language acquisition, Study and teaching




The Mandarin potential complement construction is a language specific structure. This is different from most of the languages in the world including English where modal notions are expressed by modal verbs and auxiliaries. It is a syntactic construction used to convey potential possibility in Mandarin and Cantonese. The various behaviors of the modal expressions in these three languag,i.e., English, Cantonese and Mandarin, raise interesting questions in second language acquisition research. The present study aims to explore how Cantonese speaking learners and English speaking learners process the Mandarin potential complement construction. Acceptability judgment test and corpus study were conducted to examine typical learning difficulties and essential acqu isition patterns in the course of acquiring the Mandarin potential complement construction. Given that the Mandarin potential complement construction is less marked than the Cantonese counterpart but more marked than English modal expressions, I hypothesized that Cantonese speaking learners wou ld have more native-like performance than English speaking learners. Surprisingly, this hypothesis was not completely confirmed in the present study. I will spell out the subjects, performance from the perspectives of language transfer theory, markedness theory and subset principle theory.


Thesis (Master of Arts)--Hong Kong Baptist University, 2014.; Dissertation submitted to the Faculty of Art.;Principal supervisor: Dr. John Wakefield.; Includes bibliographical references (pages 144-150)


The author retains all rights to this work. The author has signed an agreement granting HKBU a non-exclusive license to archive and distribute their thesis.

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