Perspective in the Processing of the Chinese Reflexive ziji: ERP Evidence

  • Petra B. Schumacher
  • Walter Bisang
  • Linlin Sun
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 7099)


We investigated the comprehension of the Chinese reflexive ziji, which is typically subject to long-distance binding. However, this preference can be overridden by verb semantics (some verbs require local binding) as well as by subtle feature combinations of intervening noun phrases (NPs) (e.g., 1 st /2 nd person pronouns block dependencies with more distant 3 rd person antecedents). The processing of ziji was examined in sentences containing two verb types (local/self-oriented, distant/other-oriented) and three different intervening NPs (1 st , 2 nd , 3 rd person). The event-related potential data revealed an early interaction of verb and intervener: other-oriented verbs showed more processing effort for 1 st and 2 nd person interveners (blocking), while self-oriented verbs showed a disadvantage for 2 nd person (associated with directive speech acts). We argue that two distinct animacy hierarchies are the source for these early verb-specific patterns. The blocking effect showed an additional later effect independent of verb semantics.


Reflexivity Chinese long-distance binding blocking effect animacy hierarchy perspective language comprehension event-related brain potentials 


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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Petra B. Schumacher
    • 1
  • Walter Bisang
    • 1
  • Linlin Sun
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of English and LinguisticsJohannes Gutenberg University MainzMainzGermany

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