DOI: 10.1075/sl.21072.vol ISSN:

Comparing zero and referential choice in eight languages with a focus on Mandarin Chinese

Maria Vollmer
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Communication
  • Language and Linguistics


Mandarin has a low rate of overtly expressed arguments in all syntactic functions without agreement marking on the verb. It has been claimed that Mandarin exhibits higher rates of zero arguments than other languages. Most previous work has compared Mandarin with English, while comparison with other languages remains a desideratum. This study compares Mandarin with seven languages (Cypriot Greek, English, Northern Kurdish, Sanzhi, Teop, Tondano, Vera’a) taken from Multi-CAST (

Haig & Schnell 2019
). Results suggest that while Mandarin exhibits more zero arguments than pronouns, this is not unique, with e.g. Cypriot Greek having a higher rate of zero arguments. In addition, a relatively stable rate of lexical expressions can be found across languages, relativising Mandarin’s unique position with regard to referential choice even further.

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