A corpus-based study of Mandarin Chinese referring expressions in oral narratives of preschool children

  • Yifang Yuan Simon Fraser University


This study utilizes a corpus-based approach to investigate the use of referring expressions, such as definite and indefinite noun phrases and pronouns, in oral narratives produced by monolingual Mandarin Chinese-speaking preschool children. The data material used in this study was collected from the spoken narratives of five 4-year-old children selected from the Zhou Narratives corpus (Li & Zhou, 2011). Following the cognitive approach of Gundel et al. (1993), this study analyzes the interplay between the forms of referring expressions and their corresponding cognitive statuses and discourse functions. The results of this study indicate that the correlations between the referential forms produced by 4-year-old Chinese monolingual children and their cognitive statuses and discourse functions are in line with the predictions of the Givenness Hierarchy and the patterns observed in earlier research conducted by Gundel et al. (1993) with Chinese adults. However, this study also reveals notable distinctions in the preferred referential forms used by Chinese monolingual children and adults in relation to specific cognitive statuses and discourse functions, suggesting that the development of referential appropriateness in narrative production is a gradual process.