Universal or Unique: The case of processing typologically distinct structures in Mandarin Chinese

Different accounts, experience-based theories and memory-
based theories, have been put forward to understand better the
patterns of human sentence processing and proved to be successful in
many previous studies largely on European languages. However,
sometimes they are not mutually exclusive, and at other times they
make different predictions. Furthermore, it remains unclear whether
they can be equally applied to other languages around the world. In
this talk, I focus on such typologically unique sentences as relative
clauses and topic structures in Chinese to present a test case for
evaluating the two main schools of accounts. Generally, our results
of the series of experiments are consistent with the predictions of
experience-based theories, but with little supporting evidence for
memory-based theories. We argue that more types of languages,
especially typologically distinct structures with similar functions,
should be taken into consideration to advance the study of language
processing universals.