This is a preprint
A Judgment Study of Length Patterns in Chinese: Prosody, Last Resort, and Other Factors

In Chinese VO (verb-object) phrases, 2+1 (disyllabic + monosyllabic) is ill formed when other length patterns are available, such as 2+1 *种植蒜 zhongzhi suan vs. the well-formed 2+2种植大蒜 zhongzhi dasuan ‘plant garlic’. However, 2+1 VO is acceptable when alternative length patterns are unavailable, such as 节约水 jieyue shui ‘save water’ and 喜欢钱 xihuan qian ‘love money’. The conditional acceptance of 2+1 VO is known as the ‘last resort’ effect. However, the predicted judgment difference has not been demonstrated experimentally. In addition, it is unclear whether native speakers find the last resort 2+1 to be as good as 2+2. Moreover, it is unclear what other factors may affect native judgment. To address the questions, we conducted a judgment experiment. Our study shows that (i) 2+2 VO is ranked the best, (ii) 2+1 is ranked the worst when a better form is available, and (iii) the last resort 2+1 is ranked between (i) and (ii). The result (iii) indicates a persistent effect of prosody, even for the last resort 2+1. In addition, we found a collocation effect between V and O. Moreover, we found considerable variation among the subjects, in that some subjects consistently gave higher scores than others, and for some expressions, there is a high degree of disagreement among subjects, which suggests that personal perspectives may play a role.