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Chinese as a Second Language Research

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L2 acquisition of Mandarin zai and -le

Xiner Tong / Yasuhiro Shirai
Published Online: 2016-05-20 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/caslar-2016-0001


Although the Aspect Hypothesis has been tested in many European languages, it has not been investigated extensively in Chinese. The present study tested the Aspect Hypothesis in relation to two predictions: the Association Prediction, which predicts that perfective aspect (in Chinese, –le) will be associated with telic verbs and progressive aspect (zai) with activity verbs, and the Developmental Prediction, which predicts that such associations will be stronger at early stages of development. The study employed a controlled experiment, which elicited learners’ judgments on perfective –le and progressive zai in obligatory, incorrect, and optional contexts. The results show that the Association Prediction is only partially supported and that the Developmental Prediction is not supported, in that higher-level learners associate lexical aspect more strongly with the grammatical aspect marker. The results are more consistent with the Default Past Tense Hypothesis (Salaberry 1999. The development of past tense verbal morphology in classroom L2 Spanish. Applied Linguistics 20. 151–178), which we propose to be extended to the Lexical Insensitivity Hypothesis.

提要:体假说 (Aspect Hypothesis) 在多种欧洲语言中得到了较为广泛详实的检验,而此类研究在中文研究领域相对滞后。本研究以检验该假说的两个假设性预测为目的: 1. 相关性预测: 完成体 (“了” 标记) 与有界动词 (telic verb) 以及进行体(“在” 标记)与活动动词 (activity verb) 的相关联;2. 发展性预测: 这种相关性在(语言)发展早期阶段表现得更加显著。本研究通过设计一组控制实验,引导受试者对完成体标记 “了” 和进行体标记 “在” 在强制、错误以及选择性三种语境中必要性的判断。实验结果表明, 相关性预测仅被部分支持, 同时高水平学习者被发现更倾向于将词体态与语法体标记相关联, 因而发展性预测也并不被支持。本研究结 论与默认过去式假说 (Salaberry 1999. The development of past tense verbal morphology in classroom L2 Spanish. Applied Linguistics 20. 151–178) 更具一致性, 笔者建议将这一假说扩充为词类不敏感性假说 (Lexical Insensitivity Hypothesis)。

Keywords: aspect hypothesis; default past tense hypothesis; lexical aspect; lexical insensitivity hypothesis

关键词: 体假说; 默认过去式假说; 情状体; 词类不明感性假说


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About the article

Xiner Tong

Xiner Tong has an MA in East Asian Studies with a concentration in applied linguistics from the University of Pittsburgh. She taught Mandarin as a second language for six years in China and the United States. She also worked in an international education group in Shanghai, China. Currently she is the Deputy Headmistress of ECNU Affiliated Bilingual School in Shanghai, China and is also an independent researcher on teaching and learning Chinese as a second language.

Yasuhiro Shirai

Yasuhiro Shirai (Ph.D. in Applied Linguistics, UCLA) is Eirik Borve Professor of Modern Languages, Professor of Applied Linguistics, and Chair of Department of Modern Languages and Literatures at Case Western Reserve University. His research interest includes the acquisition of grammatical constructions in L1 and L2, in particular tense-aspect, and cognitive models of language acquisition/processing.

Published Online: 2016-05-20

Published in Print: 2016-05-01

Citation Information: Chinese as a Second Language Research, Volume 5, Issue 1, Pages 1–25, ISSN (Online) 2193-2271, ISSN (Print) 2193-2263, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/caslar-2016-0001.

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