On the Neural Mechanism of the Traces of Chinese Topicalization

Social Sciences in China (Chinese Edition)

No.6, 2013


On the Neural Mechanism of the Traces of Chinese Topicalization


Yang Yiming and Liu Tao


Trace theory is an important theoretical hypothesis proposed within the Generative Grammar framework. However, the validity of the hypothesis and the existence of phonologically null traces in syntactic representations must be verified experimentally by the language-related neural mechanism. Based on the theory of Generative Grammar, this study uses the event-related potentials with high-temporal resolution to explore the neural mechanism of Chinese traces in a corpus of Chinese topoicalization. The results show that the sustained negativity incurred in the processing of Chinese topicalization, the negative components in verbal locations, and the sentence-ending P600 components, all reflect the existence of traces of sentence-beginning topic components in the original place after their movement and the existence of syntactic dependence between them two. Based on the results, we argue that traces have their neural mechanism in Chinese topicalization, and that the validity of the trace theory hypothesis can be verified by the neural mechanism. Furthermore, our study also shows from the neural mechanism perspective that Chinese topicalization is a syntactic structure resulting from linguistic movements.