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LINGUIST List 16.2202

Mon Jul 18 2005

Diss: Lang Acquisition/Syntax: Du: 'The Acquisition ...'

Editor for this issue: Takako Matsui <takolinguistlist.org>

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        1.    Hang Du, The Acquisition of the Chinese Ba-construction by Adult Second Language Learners

Message 1: The Acquisition of the Chinese Ba-construction by Adult Second Language Learners
Date: 17-Jul-2005
From: Hang Du <hdumiddlebury.edu>
Subject: The Acquisition of the Chinese Ba-construction by Adult Second Language Learners

Institution: University of Arizona
Program: Second Language Acquisition and Teaching Program
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2004

Author: Hang Du

Dissertation Title: The Acquisition of the Chinese Ba-construction by Adult Second Language Learners

Linguistic Field(s): Language Acquisition

Subject Language(s): Chinese, Mandarin (CHN)

Dissertation Director:
Feng-Hsi Liu
Cecile M McKee
Rudolph Troike

Dissertation Abstract:

The ba-construction is probably the best-known syntactic construction in
Modern Standard Chinese, but little has been done on the acquisition of it
by second language learners. My study fills this gap. The theoretical
framework is Liu's (1997) aspectual analysis of ba. The study is
experimental. The constraint on the ba-NP and the constraint on the ba-VP
were investigated. The constraint on the ba-NP is that it has to be
specific. The constraint on the ba-VP is that it has to be complex. Two of
the structures that can satisfy the complexity constraint on the ba-VP, the
resultative verb complement (RVC) and the perfective aspect marker le were
investigated. The subjects were 65 students learning Chinese in the
intensive Chinese program at the Defense Language Institute (DLI) in
Monterey, California. They were divided into three groups according to the
number of weeks that they had studied Chinese at the DLI. A group of 20
native speakers of Chinese also participated as a control group. The study
involved two experiments: production and grammaticality judgments. In the
production experiment, I designed pairs of actions on video tape and asked
the subjects to describe the actions with two Chinese sentences. In the
grammaticality judgment experiment, I played some of the video clips from
the production experiment and asked the subjects to tell whether some
written Chinese sentences accurately described the actions that they saw in
the video scenes. I also asked the subjects to indicate their confidence in
their judgments. Results were that even though the learners generally
produced fewer ba-constructions than the native speakers in the production
experiment, their judgments of most of the sentences were not significantly
different from those of native speakers, indicating that they had some good
knowledge of the construction. Moreover, learners with similar production
patterns showed different patterns in their grammaticality judgments,
suggesting that the two kinds of data complement each other in our
understanding of language acquisition. Results also show that the
confidence dimension captured subtle differences that would not have been
captured by the grammaticality dimension alone in the grammaticality
judgment experiment. It has been found that using the canonical SVO word
order and the drop of the object are the two most common patterns used by
learners to substitute for the ba-construction. Error patterns have also
been identified. Some 'unexpected' patterns of grammaticality judgments
from native speakers suggest that the learners had not yet been exposed to
some interesting phenomena in the language that interfered with the
ba-construction. One such example is the topicalization of the object to
the position between the subject and the verb. Some native speakers
accepted such sentences while most learners rejected them probably because
they had not been exposed to such structures yet. Finally, the variation
among native speakers in their judgments of the ba-construction calls for a
more systematic study of exactly how native speakers of Standard Chinese
use the ba-construction, especially those who have been exposed to other
Chinese dialects.

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