Cindy Chiang

Publication Date


Document Type

Honors Thesis


Chinese language-Passive voice, Chinese langauge-Acquisition, Chinese language-Sentences, Mandarin dialects, Mandarin, Passives, BA construction, BEI, Children-Language


The passive in Mandarin has held the interest of researchers due to its controversial status, as a passive that is transformed through an atypical passivization approach (change from the active to passive voice) but is subject to the effects of cross-linguistic delay. Because the mode of passivization in Mandarin is unclear, research on the acquisition of passives is largely inconclusive. Recent research identifies maturational processes in syntax development as a primary cause of the delayed acquisition in relation to other rules involving syntactic movement. Different types of raising (or movement) have been named as such a source of difficulty in Mandarin. Studies conducted on passives in other languages have also identified conditions of felicity, verb type, and reversibility as factors that impact the time of acquisition. The present study utilized a sample of 99 native Mandarin speaking children between the ages of three and six to investigate the effects of such constructions on the time of acquisition. It found that raising, verb type, and reversibility were all factors that impacted the time of acquisition. However the study does not encompass all of the variables and conditions needed, as several factors remained unresolved. Most notably the effects of felicity and the effect of the BA construction on the understanding of the passive require additional research to resolve these issues. Nevertheless, the acquisition results are compatible with certain contemporary analyses of the syntax of the Mandarin passive. The experimental data indicate that the general developments of the BA and BEI constructions are dependent on similar factors. Using the BA construction in experimental conditions appears to be the method that needs to be used to determine what impacts comprehension and production of the passive at the most basic level.




85 p. : ill. (chiefly col.) Honors project-Smith College, 2013. Includes bibliographical references (p. 52-54)