[PS-2.25] Effects of passivization on subsequent mention and anaphor production in Vietnamese

Ngo, B. & Kaiser, E. .

University of Southern California

Passivization marks topicalization in English: Subjects of passives are more likely to be mentioned subsequently and to be pronominalized than active subjects (Rohde/Kehler13). We tested whether passivization in Vietnamese influences subsequent mention and referential-form choice, in particular null/overt pronouns use.
Native Vietnamese speakers provided written (n=24) or spoken continuations (n=36) to fragments (e.g. The engineer {thanked/was thanked by} the driver because). To avoid ceiling/floor effects, we chose verbs that shouldn?t have overwhelming biases for either subject- or object-continuations when followed by because (Hartshorne/Snedeker13).
RESULTS: Continuations mostly start with reference to preceding non-agents (theme/patient) after BOTH passives (subject, 80%) and actives (object, 63%). This effect is STRONGER IN PASSIVES, suggesting passives mark topicalization. Referring expressions also show an active/passive asymmetry, with more null pronouns for non-agents in passives. Furthermore, the spoken task elicited more nouns for non-agents in both actives and passives than the written task.
SUMMARY: Our results suggest that notions like topicality and thematic role matter more in Vietnamese than subjecthood. There's no evidence of nulls being restricted to subject antecedents, contra syntactically-oriented claims for Romance languages (Carminati02). In contrast to the increase of pronouns over nouns in spoken English (Biber et al.99), more nouns occur in Vietnamese.