The Acquisition Of Chinese Nominal Classifier Systems By L2 Adult Learners
Liang, Szu-yen Neal
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The present study explores how L2 adult learners of Chinese acquire Chinese classifiers and provides pedagogical suggestions for more effective teaching of Chinese. 29 native speakers of Korean, 29 native speakers of English and 10 Taiwanese native speakers of Chinese were recruited to take part in three empirical tests to identify L2 learners' acquisition of various classifiers denoting shape, animacy, function, and event. The three tests are 1) Classifier Comprehension Test; 2) Classifier Production test; 3) Classifier Prototype Test. In the first test, subjects were asked to match an object that can be denoted by a Chinese classifier listed among other classifiers. The second test asked the subject to produce a classifier that can denote the object shown in a picture. In the third test, subjects were prompted with 6 classifiers and asked to list up to 5 entities that can be denoted by the classifier in question. Later on, they were asked to re-rank these entities based on their prototypicality to the classifier. Some of the results show that 1) there is a positive relationship between L2 subjects' performance and their Chinese proficiency level (CPL); 2) in general, Korean subjects outperform English-speaking subjects; 3) there are developmental sequence within shape classifiers and among different types of classifiers; 4) both Korean and English-speaking groups show a certain degree of regression at various stages; 5) with shape classifiers, the most typical objects produced by L1 subjects are also the most typical ones produced by L2 subjects; 6) there is a great extent of overlapping between L1 and L2 subjects' cognitive association of objects with the classifiers tested. Finally, the results are explained and synthesized in light of theories including Stockwell, Bowen, and Martin's Hierarchy of Difficulty model (1965), Krashen's Natural Order hypothesis (1987), VanPatten's Processing Instruction (1993, 1996, 2002), and Rosch's Prototype theory (1973 & 1975). Based on the results in this project and the models examined, several suggestions are made with regard to teaching Chinese classifier systems to L2 adult learners.