The primary aim of the thesis is to investigate some of the processes of
reading Chinese text by means of comparing and analysing approximately
100 parallel translations of four texts from Chinese to English. The
translations are answers to A Level examination questions. The focus of the
investigation is interpretation of the zero pronoun, a common phenomenon in
Chinese, which often requires explicitation when translated into English. The
secondary aim is to show how translation gives evidence of comprehension,
as shown by the variation in interpretation of zero pronouns. The thesis
reviews relevant psycholinguistic research into reading, particularly reading
of Chinese text. This is followed by reviews of relevant research into
translation as a
reading activity, and a discussion of its role in language
teaching and testing.
The core of the thesis is the discussion of the zero pronoun in Chinese,
including discussion of anaphoric choice - the writer's decision on when to
use zero in preference to an explicit anaphoric form - and of anaphoric
resolution - how a reader decides what a zero pronoun refers to. Anaphoric
resolution may be problematic for less experienced readers of Chinese owing
to its lack of rich morphological inflection which, in other languages, provides
the reader with information. Some of the key ideas on anaphoric choice and
resolution are then applied to the analysis of the data in the parallel
translations. It would appear that factors in Chinese texts which have an effect
on comprehending zero pronouns are antecedent distance, topic persistence,
abstraction, multiplicity of arguments and the meaning of the verb.
Characteristics of the reader which may affect comprehension of the zero
pronoun include personal schemata which may lead to elaborative inferences.
On the basis of the data I suggest that mark schemes could be devised on a
scalar system encompassing optimal solution, proximal solution and nonsolution, which might help to solve the problem of variability in marking
A by-product of the thesis, and an avenue for further research, is the apparent
close relationship between idea units, clause length, punctuation breaks and
antecedent distance in Chinese texts and saccade length and working memory
capacity in the reader of Chinese.