Feixue Zhao
© Feixue Zhao


Finiteness and Assertion: Form and function of finiteness in German and Chinese

  • Vita

    Universitäre/Berufliche Tätigkeiten

    Seit 12/2022

    Koordinatorin, Zertifikat DaFZ, Germanistisches Institut, WWU Münster


    Studentische Hilfskraft, Abteilung Sprachwissenschaft am Lehrstuhl von Prof. Dr. Christine Dimroth, Germanistisches Institut, WWU Münster

    Akademischer Werdegang


    Aufnahme in das Promotionskolleg Empirische und Angewandte Sprachwissenschaft, WWU Münster

    10/2020 – 08/2022

    Master of Arts (Angewandte Sprachwissenschaft), WWU Münster

    10/2019 – 04/2020

    Erasmus-Auslandssemester (Anglistik) in den Niederlanden, Utrecht Universität

    10/2016 – 10/2019

    Zwei-Fach-Bachelor (Deutsch und Anglistik), WWU Münster


  • Dissertationsprojekt

    Finiteness and Assertion: Form and function of finiteness in German and Chinese

    Finiteness is traditionally seen as an inflectional category. Finite verbs are conjugated to express person, number, and tense etc. Klein (1994, 1998, 2006) points out, however, that finiteness does not only have formal but also functional features. By means of the so called ‘contrastive intonation test’ in German, Klein shows that finiteness comprises different meaning components that become visible through contrast with some context sentence. When a contrastive pitch accent is placed on the finite verb, different meanings and functions of finiteness can be highlighted. Finiteness would have at least two different functions: 1. It carries the time component, and 2. It carries assertion-markedness. Questions arise when we consider languages such as Mandarin Chinese which seems to have neither finite vs. non-finite distinctions nor tense, or where none of these categories is expressed with the help of inflectional morphology. Klein et al. (2000) suggest that the aspectual particles in modern Mandarin Chinese assume the function of assertion marking. Perfective particles le and guo as well as imperfective particles zai and zhe are particularly relevant in this context. The proposal concerning the contribution of Mandarin aspectual particles to assertion marking is, however, solely based on introspective, intuition-based data. My project aims to contribute empirical evidence to this relatively unexplored area by carrying out series of linguistic experiments targeting the production and comprehension of aspectual particles in German and Mandarin Chinese. The empirical part of the project is based on existing experimental materials. Three experiments elicit finite utterances (assertion or affirmation) in different discourse contexts ranging from elicited oral narrations (film retelling ‘the finite story’; Dimroth 2006) to more controlled techniques (‘polarity switch dialogues’ (Turco 2014), and ‘elicited imitation’; Schimke 2009). A fourth experiment (‘picture selection’: Schimke 2009) investigates the comprehension of finiteness.