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When Context Begins Affecting “Ziji” Anaphora Processing? Evidence from Semantic Priming

[ Vol. 5 , Issue. 1 ]


Shiqian Zhang and Delu Zhang*   Pages 36 - 43 ( 8 )


Background: Principle A of the Government and Binding Theory (Norm Chomsky, 1981, 1986) prescribes that a reflexive should refer to the local (short-distance) antecedent within the local syntactic domain. However, the Chinese bare reflexive “ziji” (自己) does not accord with Principle A. “Ziji” can refer to a local or long-distance antecedent, directly determined by context (co-text).

Objective: The present study aims to explore when context begins affecting “ziji” anaphora processing.

Methods: Using the semantic priming technique, we examined the nature of the earliest stage of context- manipulated “ziji” anaphora processing.

Results: A priming effect on target words under (semantically) relevant contexts was detected; we also found the priming effect on the L-target under the long-distance contextual condition, but found no priming effect on the relevant target (the S-target) under the local (short-distance) contextual condition.

Conclusion: The present study suggests that contextual information begins affecting “ziji” anaphora at its earliest processing stage; that is, context immediately affects “ziji” anaphora processing once it is available. However, at the earliest processing stage, the activation of contextual information is still asymmetric or inadequate.


Anaphora, antecedent, anaphor, reflexive, “ziji”, context, semantic priming technique.


School of Foreign Languages, University of Shanghai for Science and Technology, Shanghai 200093, School of Foreign Languages, Tongji University, Shanghai 200092

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