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Jing Lin


Dr. J. Lin
+31 71 527 2125

I am Jing Lin, a postdoc researcher at the LUCL. I defended my PhD thesis at the University of Amsterdam on December 4th, 2015, in which I looked at the acquisition of Negative Polarity Items in Dutch, English and Mandarin by means of both corpus study and experiments. I have a background in Dutch linguistics and acquisition. This time at the LUCL, I will compare the acquisition of conditional constructions (without conditional words) in Dutch and Mandarin Chinese. I am also teaching some courses at the University of Amsterdam.

More information about Jing Lin


Complex sentences with a main and a subordinate clause often express complex relations. Conditionality is one such relation. It can be marked explicitly by conditional words like if. The use of explicit markers is not obligatory however. Compare the following a- and b-sentences taken from Dutch and Mandarin Chinese for If it doesn’t rain tomorrow, we’ll go for a picnic:

(1) a. Als het morgen niet regent, dan gaan we picknicken. [Dutch]
if it tomorrow not rain then go we picnic
b. Regent het morgen niet, dan gaan we picknicken.
rain it tomorrow not then go we picnic

(2) a. Ruguo mingtian bu xiayu, women jiu qu yecan. [Mandarin]
if tomorrow not rain we then go picnic
b. Mingtian bu xiayu, women jiu qu yecan.
tomorrow not rain we then go picnic

Both a-sentences contain a canonical conditional clause: the conditional relation is marked by conditional words als and ruguo, respectively. The b-sentences express the same conditional relation but lack conditional words. I call such sentences bare conditional clauses. The bare conditional clause in Dutch (i.e. (1b)) displays a polar question form with subject-verb inversion (i.e. V1-conditionals; Traugott 1985; Iatridou & Embick 1993; Podlesskaya 2001; Starr 2012); whereas its Mandarin counterpart (i.e. (2b)) shows the same form as canonical declaratives in the language (Li & Thompson 1989).

Bare conditionals form the focus of this project as they raise important theoretical questions. Why do we have both variants of conditionals – at least in the two languages illustrated above? Where does the meaning of conditionality in the b-variants come from? How do children interpret bare conditionals (initially)? How do they acquire both ways of expressing conditionality? What role does children’s knowledge in different (linguistic) domains play in their acquisition of bare conditionals, such as syntax (e.g. verb movement in Dutch), semantics (when conditionality overlaps with e.g. temporality), pragmatics (when conditionals are used to express e.g. belief) and logic (i.e. conditional reasoning about two propositions)?
Answering these questions may contribute to our understanding of theoretical approaches to conditionals as well as of acquisition of interface phenomena. Moreover, investigating bare conditional constructions may also shed light on the semantic hierarchy of conditionality in natural languages, and the mapping between language and logic.

As a first step towards answering these questions, I will look at acquisition. The reasoning is straightforward: the development of a certain phenomenon in child language and possible error patterns can provide insight into how this phenomenon is eventually represented in the grammar. In this project, acquisition data will be collected in two languages: Dutch and Mandarin Chinese. These two languages, though, typologically different, both allow bare conditional variants. Nonetheless, bare conditionals in these two languages are distinct: whereas Dutch bare conditionals are pseudo polar questions, their Mandarin counterparts seem to be pseudo declaratives (though Mandarin declaratives and polar questions without a question particle display the same surface structure). Investigating these two languages is therefore important for comparative syntax and semantics, and allows one to collect acquisition data from two language groups, which may render credence to observed generalisations.

Exploring the acquisition of conditionals in these two languages will also fill a gap in the literature. Although conditionality is not an unknown topic for acquisitionists (e.g. Reilly 1982, 1986; Bowerman 1986; Erbaugh 1992; Akatsuka & Clancy 1993), development of canonical conditional clauses in Dutch or Mandarin has attracted little attention. Moreover, no research (to my knowledge) on the acquisition of bare conditionals has been reported. In particular, the following questions will be addressed:

(3)a. Do children’s (initial) interpretations of canonical conditionals differ from those of bare conditionals?
b. Do Dutch and Mandarin children show the same learning pathway in their acquisition of the two conditional types?
c. What role does children’s knowledge in different domains, such as syntax, semantics, pragmatics, and logic play in their acquisition of bare conditionals?

These questions will be investigated in two experiments: a truth-value judgement task and an elicited production task. Participants will be monolingual Dutch and Mandarin children aged between three and eight. A total of 360 participants will be divided over six age groups (of 30 subjects) per language. Participants’ working memory will be measured as well (after Toms et al. 1993).

In order to design the experiments, I need to gather baseline data about the conditional constructions Dutch and Mandarin Chinese, such as the age of emergence of both types of conditional constructions in child language, and the frequency thereof in the language input. This will be my main task at LUCL.

Grants and awards

November, 2015
Bonus awarded by the Amsterdam Center for Language and Communication (ACLC) for publishing a doctoral dissertation with the Netherlands graduate School of Linguistics (LOT), 500 euro.

September, 2015
Bonus awarded by the Amsterdam Center for Language and Communication (ACLC) for finishing a doctoral dissertation within the contract period, 500 euro.

September 2009 - August 2011
Huygens Scholarship programme 2009, Scholarship awarded by Nuffic for the Research Master in Linguistics at the University of Amsterdam, 57,120 euro.

October 2007
Travel grants awarded by the NLPVF for workshop on Chinese-Dutch translation, Amsterdam, 1,000 euro.

June 2006
Travel grants awarded by the NLPVF for workshop on Chinese-Dutch translation, Amsterdam, 1,000 euro.


  • Faculty of Humanities
  • Leiden Univ Centre for Linguistics
  • LUCL diversen


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