LINGUIST List 24.4620

Tue Nov 19 2013

Review: Applied Ling.; Lang. Acquisition; Sociolinguistics: Kecskes (2013)

Editor for this issue: Joseph Salmons <>

Date: 28-Aug-2013
From: Han Luo <>
Subject: Research in Chinese as a Second Language
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Book announced at

EDITOR: Istvan KecskesTITLE: Research in Chinese as a Second LanguageSERIES TITLE: Trends in Applied Linguistics [TAL] 9PUBLISHER: De Gruyter MoutonYEAR: 2013

REVIEWER: Han Luo, Northwestern University

SUMMARYAs China plays an increasingly important role in the world economy andinternational politics, worldwide interest in learning Chinese has emerged.For example, from 1998 to 2002, enrollments in Chinese classes in Americanhigher-education institutes increased 20%, from 28,456 to 34,153 students(Welles, 2004). In 2006, the number enrolled in Chinese classes rose to51,582, a 51% increase compared to 2002. Despite this, the field of teachingChinese as a foreign/second language (CFL/CSL) has not developed a strongresearch background. ''Research In Chinese as a Second Language'' edited byIstvan Kecskes collects eleven papers by scholars and researchers in Chineselinguistics and Chinese language education from around the world in an effortto promote a strong research base for Chinese language education. This book isintended for CFL/CSL teachers, researchers and other professionals in thefield.

The eleven papers are divided into three sections: research base for practice,integrating culture and language, and acquisition of language structures.

Section 1 includes three papers. In the first, ''Developing Chinese oralskills -- A research base for practice'', Jane Orton examines and synthesizesresearch findings and existing knowledge in four major fields, the nature ofspoken language, the nature of spoken Chinese, the nature of the learningtask, and pedagogical principles and practices to shed light on theacquisition of Chinese oral skills, one of the most challenging tasks forCFL/CSL learners. Her literature review identifies the importance of teachingthe rhythm of Chinese as a foundation for oral proficiency, recognizes howoverlooked the learning task and processes have been in current practice andresources, and advises the development of learners' metacognitive awareness ofthe learning process through a wide variety of exercises. Ping Yang's''Asymmetrical style of communication in Mandarin Chinese talk-in-interaction:Pedagogical implications for TCSOL professionals'' discusses status, powerdistance, verbal and non-verbal dominance, and asymmetrical styles ofcommunication between CSL/CFL teachers and students drawing on a detailedanalysis of audio and video data, providing pedagogical implications forCSL/CFL professionals. According to Yang, it is important for CSL/CFLteachers to understand different communication styles of varying culturalgroups where students come from, to recognize the importance of promotingcultural diversity and equity, and to integrate this understanding intoclassroom learning activities and extra-curricular activities. The thirdpaper, ''Learning tones Cooperatively in the CSL Classroom: A Proposal'' byWang Chen, deals with the challenge of learning tones. This paper proposes aninnovative method of tone learning, which views the learning of tones as acognitive process occurring throughout all stages of Chinese languageacquisition. In this framework, the teacher is a facilitator rather than amodeler or monitor and students learn cooperatively by providing each otherlearning tips and carrying out mini teaching tasks. Compared to traditionalteacher-led tone training, this method provides more opportunities formeaningful language production among students.

The four articles in the second section focus on the element of culture inChinese language classrooms. Ned Danison's ''Integrating culture and languagein the CFL classroom: A view from the bottom up'' investigates CFL learners'perceptions of Chinese culture gained from learning the language texts.In-depth interviews with the students and the teacher of one class revealstudents' impressions of culture when culture is not explicitly included as acomponent in the CFL classroom, the role of the target language in introducingthe target culture, and the role of the native-speaker Chinese teacher. Theresearcher proposes that the teacher should not only have a thoroughunderstanding of her native culture, but also needs to be well informed aboutdifferences between her native culture and the students' culture(s).

''Analysis of pragmatic functions of Chinese cultural markers'' by Xiaolu Wangand Tingting Ma explores the pragmatic complexity of Chinese cultural markers,defined as elements which can trigger Chinese culture and display distinctiveways of communication among Chinese. The theoretical framework is NewIntention and New Common Ground Theory. In a close corpus analysis theresearchers find that Chinese cultural markers can promote mutual reciprocitybetween interlocutors, soften tones, hide interlocutors' true feelings,alleviate negative expressions, and smooth the progress of discourse.

''Gestures as tone markers in multilingual communication'' by Chun-Mei Chenexamines the effect of gestures as tone markers on the tonal achievements ofCFL learners in classroom-based face-to-face communication. The researchervideotaped 180 hours of two elementary-level CFL classes which were dividedinto a control group and an experimental group. In the control group, toneswere taught in the traditional five-scaled system; in the experimental group,hand gestures were used as tone markers in drills and classroom interaction.The results showed that the learners in the experimental group hadsignificantly better communication achievements. However, it is difficult tounderstand why this paper appears in the section on integrating language andculture as this paper does not really focus on culture.

The last paper in the section, ''The collaborative construction of culturalknowledge in a Chinese movie class'', examines the observational data toreveal how target culture contexts were constructed in a second-year Chinesemovie class. From the analysis, Ying Liu presents a model of culturalknowledge construction in CFL classes and shows that Chinese movie classesprovide a good opportunity for CFL students to learn about Chinese culture.

Section 3 collects four papers on the acquisition of language structures. WenXiong's ''The acquisition of Chinese modal auxiliary Neng Verb Group (NVG): Acase study of an English L2 learner of Chinese'' is a longitudinal case studyof the acquisition path of the Neng Verb Group by an English L2 learner ofChinese. Xiong interviewed the learner over 35 school weeks. A closeexamination of the learner's L2 speech production shows that the learner'sdevelopmental use of the NVG words went through two broad phases: theinterlocutor dependent uses (IDU) phase and the interlocutor independent uses(IIU) phase. The IDU reflects constraints imposed or support provided theinterlocutor, whereas the IIU reflects the learner's own control of theinterlanguage. This study also reveals that the acquisition of the NVG wordscould not have been completed in one step and that the learner initially usedthe NVG words as separate items rather than a connected group. However,current teaching practice tends to introduce these words as a group, which maynot be the most effective way to handle the NVG words.

''Acquisition of Chinese relative clauses at the initial stage'' by Yi Xuexplores the initial acquisition of Chinese relative clauses by CFL learnersbased on a listening comprehension task. According to Xu, CFL learners tendto have a slight preference for the subject relativization structure ofChinese relative clauses and they rely on semantic knowledge to processrelative clauses. Pedagogically, it is important to provide explicit grammarexplanation of Chinese relative clauses to students.

Zi-Yu Lin's article ''Conceptual similarities in languages -- Evidence fromEnglish be going to and its Chinese counterparts'' uses the principles ofgrammaticalization to examine the grammatical and semantic behavior of ''begoing to'' and its Chinese counterparts within Cognitive Linguistics. In theview of cognitive linguists, grammatical morphemes develop from lexical itemsvia a diachronic process of semantic extension motivated by a wide range ofcognitive mechanisms such as metaphor and metonymy. Xu explains thegrammaticalization of ''be going to'' and its Chinese counterparts by applyingthe concepts and mechanisms of metonymy, embodiment, practicality,decategorization, frequency, relevance and iconicity, showing that English andChinese share many conceptual similarities in the development of future andmodality grams.

The last paper, ''SLA of Mandarin nominal syntax: Emergence order in the earlystages'' by Helen Charters, demonstrates how Emergent Functional Grammar, anacquisition theory based on universal grammar, could effectively account forobserved emergence order of nominal structures in the spontaneous speech ofsecond language learners of Mandarin. The three major phases of EmergentFunctional Grammar are the pre-syntactic phase, the local-syntax phase, andthe long-distance syntax phase and each phase involve a number of relevantprocesses, which could readily explain the emergence order of nominalstructures of Mandarin resulted from empirical findings from three independentlongitudinal studies within the framework of Processability Theory.

EVALUATIONThis book is among the first attempts to bring scholars and researchers inChinese language education together to create a platform and set a researchbase for teaching and learning Chinese as a second/foreign language. Thetopics discussed are diverse and interesting. The studies cover linguistics,second language acquisition, language pedagogy, and culture. This book is amuch-needed and long-awaited collection for language teachers, researchers,and other professionals in field of Chinese as a second/ foreign language.However, a few areas leave something to be desired.

Some papers are somewhat difficult to understand, likely due to the fact thatthe writers are not native speakers of English. Other papers are very wellwritten in terms of language quality, but contain a lot of linguistic jargon.While specialized terminology is unavoidable for some discussions, simplelanguage would be helpful in a book intended to promote language teaching.

The four papers on the acquisition of language structures in Section 3 setgood examples of research methodology, probably because of the relativematurity of linguistics and SLA. For example, Wen Xiong's case study of anEnglish L2 learner of Chinese not only has useful implications for languageteaching, but also contributes to SLA methodology by introducing andexemplifying how to analyze learner speech production. In contrast, the paperson practice in the classroom and integration of language and culture havegreat room for improvement in terms of research methodology. For instance,Xiaolu Wang and Tingting Ma give a nice analysis of pragmatic functions ofChinese cultural markers, but do not provide any information about theirresearch design and method.

Finally, as the purpose of this book is to promote Chinese language teaching,practical implications are particularly relevant, though the pedagogicalimplications of some studies may not benefit language teachers and studentsdue to their over reliance on linguistic jargons. For example, in the articleon the grammatical and semantic behavior of ''be going to'' and its Chinesecounterparts, Zi-Yu Lin proposes that language teachers should tell theirstudents that ''while English future grams evolved from both volitional verbsand movement verbs, Chinese future grams mostly developed from volitionalverbs''. On the other hand, another study (i.e. Helen Charter's paper on SLAof Mandarin Nominal Syntax), a paper of theoretical significance, does notseem to have any clear pedagogical implications.

The field of teaching Chinese as a second/foreign language is stilldeveloping, full of challenges and opportunities. High-quality studiesdirectly related to classroom teaching are scarce and much needed. Forexample, we particularly need studies on material development, curriculumdesign, and assessment to guide CFL/CSL teaching. Although there has been arapid increase of interest in learning the Chinese language, CFL/CSL learnersseem to have difficulty sustaining their efforts in learning Chinese (Luo,2013). Thus, research is needed on affective factors such as motivation,anxiety, and attitudes associated with Chinese language learning. Anothertrend in Chinese language education lies in the boom of Chinese heritagelearners, so that Chinese heritage language education deserves attention (He &Xiao, 2008).

REFERENCESHe, A. & Y. Xiao. (2008). Chinese as a heritage language: Fostering rootedworld citizenry. Honolulu: University of Hawaii National Foreign LanguageResource Center.

Luo, H. (2013). Chinese Language Learning Anxiety and its Associated Factors.Journal of Chinese Language Teachers Association, 48 (2), 109-133.

Welles, E.B. (2004). Foreign language enrollments in United Statesinstitutions of higher education, fall 2002. ADFL Bulletin, 35, 7-26.

ABOUT THE REVIEWERDr. Han Luo joined Northwestern University as a Chinese lecturer in the Fallof 2011. She received a PhD in Foreign Language Education with aspecialization in the teaching of Chinese from the University of Texas atAustin in 2011, and a PhD in Linguistics and Applied Linguistics from BeijingForeign Studies University in 2007. Before coming to the U.S., she taughtEnglish and linguistics at the Graduate School of Chinese Academy of Sciencesin Beijing for 6 years. Her research interests include second languageacquisition, teaching Chinese as a foreign language, foreign language learninganxiety, Chinese linguistics, cognitive linguistics, and heritage languageeducation.

Page Updated: 19-Nov-2013