Topic and topic-comment structure in first language acquisition of Mandarin Chinese
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Mandarin Chinese has been characterized as a topic-prominent language with the prevalence use of topic-comment structures. Studies have shown that Chinese children are able to comprehend the concept of topic at their early age of syntax acquisition, but it is unclear how frequently are topic-comment structures produced in their spontaneous speech. This is a cross-sectional study of Chinese-speaking children, with the aim of determining the production frequency of topic-comment structures in four and six old children. Another goal of this study is to examine whether there are any developmental differences in the production of topic-comment structures between the two age groups. The results show that, contrary to what was expected, the production frequency of topic-comment structures is low in both age groups and there is no significant difference in the production frequency between them. It is concluded that, despite the low frequency, the few errors and variety of topic-comment structures produced suggest that Chinese children have acquired the topic-comment structure by the age of four although this is not manifested in their spontaneous speech production.