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Title: Multimedia mediation and Chinese orthographic character learning among non-heritage CFL beginners

Author: Chen-Hui Tsai 

Year and Degree: 2014 Doctor of Philosophy, University of Iowa

Abstract:

Logographic character handwriting, such as Hanzi in Chinese, Kanji in Japanese, or Hanja in Korean, is notoriously challenging for foreign language learners. Fortunately, computer-assisted learning systems for handwriting are being improved to meet the instructional needs of teachers and learners in foreign language education. However, the effect of computer-assisted language learning in logographic handwriting has never been explored. To anchor the inquiry of the current study, the extensive complementarity approach was adopted, in which SLA research complements L2 instruction by studying the impact of a theory-based instructional method on the learning of an aspect of the L2.

The present study explores the orthographic development at the initial stage of character learning among non-heritage, beginning-level learners of Chinese as a foreign language (CFL) by investigating the effect of Interactionist-instructed mediations on orthographic attrition and maintenance and by examining the relationships among awareness of internal formation sequencing, character recognition and production. Data was collected from 167 first-year CFL students in a Chinese program at a large research university in North America. In phase one, 63 students completed all the six-week lab writing tasks. In phase two, 125 students completed all the end-of-semester correlation tasks in their first semester of learning Chinese.

The findings of the study are multifold. First, by closely examining the roles of input, output, and feedback in the Interactionist model, the results show that, to maximize orthographic retention and reduce attrition, the effect of working memory needs to be taken into consideration in the design of instruction for immediate kinesthetic skill training and for better development of orthographic awareness among CFL non-heritage beginners. Second, the effect of multimedia input enhancements along with handwriting output on reducing variations of character formation in character learning is also significant. Third, the effect of the handwriting feedback is not found to be significant when compared to its counterpart without feedback in computer-assisted handwriting instruction; however, its influence on the participants' writing motivations and learning objectives were observed and addressed in the study. Finally, the CFL non-heritage beginning learners' awareness of internal formation sequencing was found to be correlated with their performance in character recognition and reproduction. The pedagogical implications are discussed. 

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Title: The Development of Aspect Marking in L2 Chinese by English Native Speakers

Author: Limin Jin

Year and Degree: 2003, Doctor of philosophy, University of Cambridge

Abstract:

The thesis presents a cross-sectional study of the development of aspect marking in L2 Chinese by English native speakers. By using an acceptability judgement test, a storytelling task and a multiple-choice test, the study addresses three research questions: (1) What is the developmental sequence in the acquisition of four aspect markers in Chinese: the perfective markers guo and le, and the imperfective markers zai and zhe? (2) Does the development of the L2 Chinese aspectual system follow the predictions of the Aspect Hypothesis (AH), which has gained considerable support from research in L2 Indo-European languages? (3) What factors may account for the observed patterns of aspect marking in L2 Chinese? Moreover, since Chinese native speakers have also participated in the investigation, their data will corroborate and, more importantly, extend our knowledge of the Chinese aspectual system. 

Results from the study show that although it may be possible to identify an order in the emergence of these aspect markers in the interlanguage, it is hard to conclude on a clear sequence in the acquisition of them. The L2 learners seem to experience specific and unique problems associated with each marker at different stages of the acquisition process. As for the associations between situation and viewpoint aspects, the patterns in the production data of the lower-intermediate (LI) learners, more or less, confirm the predictions of the AH about the early L2 tense and aspectual systems, although analyses of the acceptability judgement data show that the LI learners, incorrectly, accept the combination of the perfective marker VF-le with all situation types, indicating a strong influence from the learners’ L1. With progress in learners’ L2 proficiency, the interlanguage aspectual system does gradually approximate the target, though not along the path predicted by the AH. The patterns in the use of aspect markers by the upper-intermediate learners are more compatible with the predicted initial patterns in L2 acquisition, which are also the patterns found in the native speaker data. Based on these results, a proposal for rephrasing the AH has been made. With regard to the factors that may influence the L2 acquisition of Chinese aspect markers, the developmental data in the present study suggest that the restructuring of the aspectual system may result from an interaction of L1 interference, exposure to the input, and frequency and semantic complexity of the aspect markers in question.

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Title: The Acquisition of Mandarin Prosody by American Learners of Chinese as a Foreign Language (CFL)

Author: Chunsheng Yang 

Year and Degree: 2011, Doctor of Philosophy, Ohio State University, East Asian Languages and Literatures.

Abstract:

This dissertation examines the acquisition of Mandarin prosody by American learners of Chinese as a Foreign Language (CFL). Specifically, it examines the four aspects of Mandarin prosody: (1) the prosodic phrasing (i.e., breaking up of utterances into smaller units); (2) the surface F0 and duration patterns of prosodic phrasing in a group of sentence productions elicited from L1 and L2 speakers of Mandarin Chinese; (3) the patterns of tones errors in L2 Mandarin productions; and (4) the relationship between tone errors and prosodic phrasing in L2 Mandarin. The analysis of prosodic phrasing in the corpus shows that prosodic phrasing is closely related to syntactic structure in both L1 and L2 Mandarin productions. Moreover, results show that the syntactic structure in a prosodic phrase does not influence the prosodic structure of that constituent in either the learner group or the native group. Analysis of the duration patterns in the L1 and L2 Mandarin corpus shows that the most consistent duration pattern that indexes prosodic phrasing is phrase-final lengthening. In addition, the duration analysis shows that the native group shows phrase-initial lengthening, the intermediate learner group shows phrase-initial shortening, and the advanced learner group shows no effect of phrasing on phrase-initial duration. This pattern of phrase-initial lengthening/shortening indicates a learning effect in that the advanced learner group patterned more similarly to the native group. We also observed the transfer of L1 English stress patterns, such as the weak versus strong alternating stress patterns in the L2 corpus. With respect to the F0 patterns of prosodic phrasing, it was found that the conflicting tone sequences (the sequences in which the target at the offset of a preceding tone and the target at the onset of the following tone are identical) posed more difficulty for learners than the compatible tone sequences (the sequences in which the target at the offset of a preceding tone and the target at the onset of a following tone are different). Specifically, the productions by the native speakers involved more target undershoot (namely, the tone targets are not fully realized) than those by the L2 learners.

It was also found that the tone target undershoot mostly occurred in the first prosodic phrase of an utterance. The transfer of English intonation patterns was also observed, such as the transfer of a high phrase accent at the end of a prosodic phrase. Analysis of tone errors shows that the low and rising tones were the most frequent tone errors produced by the two groups of learners in their L2 Mandarin productions, regardless of the underlying tones. The patterns of tone errors in different tone sequences suggest that the learners not only had difficulty in changing the tone targets quickly in the conflicting tone sequences, they also had difficulty in changing the F0 direction quickly in the compatible tone sequences. It is argued that these tone errors were produced as a consequence of the superimposition of the L1 English utterance-level prosody over tone production by L2 learners.

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Title: A web-based approach to learning expressions of gratitude in Chinese as a foreign language

Author: Li Yang 

Year and Degree: 2013 Doctor of Philosophy, University of Iowa

Abstract:

This study investigates the effects of instruction delivered via a learner-centered, self-access website on the learning of expressions of gratitude by L2 Chinese learners across proficiency levels. Three research questions are addressed: (1) whether the web-based instruction facilitates students' learning of Chinese expressions of gratitude, (2) whether the effects of instruction vary across proficiency levels, and (3) how L2 learners regard the use of the website as a learning tool.

Based on the noticing hypothesis and the pragmatic consciousness-raising approach, a pragmatics website was developed that provided explicit instruction on how to appropriately express gratitude in Chinese and offered awareness-raising exercises and activities for practice. It was structured in eight instructional units and two review sessions.

To address the three research questions, this study adopted a pretest-posttest design to include two groups of learners who differed in their proficiency in the Chinese language. The two groups of learners received pragmatics instruction delivered via the self-access website over five weeks. Two weeks prior to the instruction, all learners were asked to complete (1) the language contact profile (LCP) for eliciting their demographic information and their contact with Chinese outside the classroom, (2) a local standardized Chinese proficiency test (CPT) for assessing their proficiency in Chinese, (3) discourse completion tasks/tests (DCT) for soliciting their production of Chinese expressions of gratitude, (4) metapragmatic assessment tasks (MAT) for eliciting their metapragmatic assessment of thanking responses provided, and (5) retrospective interviews for soliciting learners' explanations of their assessments in the MAT. On a weekly basis during the treatment period, learners wrote reflective e-journals in response to prompt questions provided by the researcher, which helped track learners' self-access study progress and their on-going perceptions of the website. One week after the online instruction, all learners were also asked to complete the same types of questionnaires (i.e., the DCT and the MAT) and retrospective interviews for assessing their pragmatic development.

Results showed that after receiving the web-based instruction, all learners produced more appropriate expressions of gratitude and used more varied thanking strategies in their responses, regardless of their proficiency. Learners' assessments of Chinese expressions of gratitude became more target-like and their metapragmatic awareness was also promoted. However, higher-level learners seemed to have benefited more from the instruction in their production of Chinese expressions of gratitude than lower-level participants, and the higher-level group demonstrated an overall higher level of pragmatic awareness than the lower-level group after the online instruction. But no significant difference was found between the two groups in terms of learners' metapragmatic assessments. In addition, participants responded positively to the website and put forward constructive suggestions to improve it.

Finally, this study interpreted the findings based on cognitive processing theories, proposed both theoretical and pedagogical implications, and discussed the limitations of this study and directions for future research. Read more ...

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Title: Behaviors of wh-elements in English and Russian learners’ L2 Chinese

Author: Dugarova, Esuna

Year and Degree: 2010 Doctor of Philosophy, University of Cambridge 

Abstract:

The present study investigates the behaviors of wh-elements in English and Russian speakers’ L2 Chinese single and multiple wh-questions and aims to find out whether learners are able to attain target-like knowledge of these structures. In single wh-questions, English requires wh-movement, while Russian requires wh-focalisation. Although a wh-element generally stays in-situ in Chinese, it can undergo topicalisation on the condition that the wh-question in which it occurs s linked with discourse. If a wh-topic in Chinese is derived by movement, it should be subject to various syntactic constraints. It is also observed that an intervention effect arises in Chinese wh-questions when negative, focusing or quantification elements precede wh-adverbs, while this type of intervention effect is not applicable to English and Russian.

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