Title: Simulating Mandarin tone acquisition by CSL learners

Author: Mo CHEN  

Abstract: A growing tree-structured self-organizing feature map network was developed to simulate the acquisition of Mandarin tones by native English speakers. This network has a dynamic network construction and capacity that is better than the traditional Kohonen self-organizing feature map. This network also more effectively preserves the global topology mapping than early dynamic tree-like maps.Simulations of the acquisition of Mandarin tones are consistent with experimental results. These show the dynamic developmental process of Mandarin tones. The results show that self-organization is an important mechanism for tone emergence and that tone feature teaching is important for Mandarin tone-teaching strategies. 

Key words: non-tone language; Mandarin tone; computer simulation; growing tree-structured self-organizing feature map 

Source: Journal of Tsinghua University (Sci & Tech), 2011, 51(9), 1201-1204. 



摘要:该文提出了一个动态的生长型树型自组织特征映射网络,用以模拟英语母语者汉语声调的认知发展。该网络既克服了传统的Kohonen 自组织特征映射网络的固定网络结构限制以及容量有限性,又克服了其他类似动态网络的较弱的拓扑映射特性,可以较好地模拟英语母语者汉语声调认知的发展。模拟结果跟实验结果呈现出非常好的一致性,既证明了行为实验中汉语声调的动态发展过程,也为汉语声调认知的机制研究提供了机理上的解释。



Title: Input processing of Chinese by ab initio learners

Authors: Zhaohong Han, Zehua Liu


We report on a study of first-exposure learners with different first languages (L1s: English, Japanese) to examine their ability to process input for form and meaning. We used a rich set of tasks to tap respectively into processing, comprehension, imitation, and working memory. We show that there are advantages to having a first language (L1) that brings familiarity with the target language. We also show that when presented with natural auditory input, learners are able to process form only minimally. These findings are inconsistent with other studies that suggest that segmentation is easy and rapid. Additionally, we show that such learners comprehend meaning by relying on ‘top-down’ strategies. These findings challenge some of the claims on Input Processing theory.

Source: Second Language Research, 2013, 29(2), 145-164.

Title: Natural or Artificial: Is the Route of L2 Development Teachable?

Author: Xian Zhang

           James P. Lantolf

Abstract: The current study was designed to assess the central claim of the Teachability Hypothesis (TH), a corollary of general Processability Theory (PT), which predicts instruction cannot alter posited universal, hierarchically organized psycholinguistic constraints behind PT's developmental sequences. We employed an interventional design, which adhered to instructional procedures of Systemic Theoretical Instruction, and we taught four university learners at Stage 2 (subject-verb-object) Chinese topicalization for Stage 4 (object-first, e.g., Pizza tā yě chī le, Pizza 他 也 吃了, ‘Pizza he also ate’). We believe the findings show that, under the instructional conditions utilized in the study, the predictions of TH do not hold. We conclude it is possible to artificially construct a developmental route different from the one predicted by natural developmental sequences, in agreement with the claims of Vygotsky's developmental education.

Keywords: teachability hypothesis;processability theory;sociocultural theory;natural sequence;concept-based instruction

Source: Language Learning, 2015, 65(1): 152-180. 


Title: A Learner Corpus Study of L2 Lexical Development of Chinese Resultative Verb Compounds

Author: Jie Zhang

Abstract: The Chinese resultative verb compounds (RVCs) are an important yet challenging compound structure for second language (L2) Chinese learners. However, there is little understanding about how the lexical features of RVCs emerge and develop in L2 Chinese learners. Drawing on written essays in an L2 Chinese learner corpus, this study investigated the lexical development of RVCs in frequency, component versatility, and accuracy. The findings revealed that learners acquired RVCs in three phases: the whole-word formula phase, the emergence of compound awareness  phase, and the solidified compound awareness and lexical development  phase. The study found that different types of RVCs demonstrated divergent  patterns of development and posed different acquisition difficulties for learners, thus calling for different pedagogical approaches.

Keywords: learner corpus; lexical development; Chinese resultative verb compounds; frequency; component versatility; accuracy

Source: Journal of the Chinese Language Teachers Association, 2014, 49(3), 1-24. 

Title: A Concept-Based Instructional Design: Introducing Chinese Color Terms and Their Metaphorical Meanings at the Elementary Level

Author: Gang Liu

            Haixia Wang


Metaphor is an indispensable part of human life. Scholars have argued that not only do we use metaphors to talk about abstract concepts that are hard to explain in concrete terms, but how we perceive and interact with our cultural reality is also influenced by a conceptual structure that is fundamentally metaphorical. As a sub-category of conceptual metaphors, color metaphors play an important role in human life and daily communication. Understanding the metaphorical implications behind the color terms will not only help us understand the rationale behind of the choice and use of them, but also enable us to look into the conceptual structure of the language and culture in which these terms are rooted. The purpose of this instructional design is to investigate if classroom instruction inspired by the concept-based instructional approach could raise students’ conceptual awareness of the cultural implications behind certain Chinese color words and affect their metaphorical interpretation of certain Chinese color terms. Since few pedagogical reports have focused on the instruction of Chinese color terms as conceptual metaphors, this study will help us understand students' learning process and provide useful pedagogical information and strategies for language teachers on this subject.

 Keywords: Conceptual metaphor, Chinese color terms, Concept-based instruction, Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language

Source: Studies in Chinese Learning and Teaching,2015 1.1: 40-59.  







Title: Measurements of development in L2 written production: The case of L2 Chinese

Author: Wenying Jiang


This study investigates measures for second language (L2) writing development. A T-unit, which has been found the most satisfactory unit of analysis for measuring L2 development in English, is extended to measure L2 Chinese writing development through a cross-sectional design in this study. Data were collected from three L2 Chinese learner groups (n = 116) at different proficiency levels determined by institutional status, namely year of study and a native control group (n = 66). A T-unit in Chinese is firstly defined and then solutions for questions of practicality faced in extending T-unit analysis to Chinese are provided. In order to confirm the reliability of T-unit length as a measure for Chinese, T-unit analysis is applied to L1 Chinese before it is used to measure L2 Chinese development. With T-unit length being established as a reliable measure in L1 Chinese, three specific T-unit measures, namely T-unit length, error-free T-unit length, and percentage of error-free T-units, are extended to measure L2 Chinese writing development. Percentage of error-free T-units is found to be the only measure that discriminates between all levels of this learner cohort. Significance of the findings and relevance to measurements of L2 writing development in general are discussed.

Source: Applied Linguistics, 2013, 34(1): 1-24. 


Title: Neural changes underlying successful second language word learning: An fMRI study

Authors: Jing Yang, Kathleen Marie Gatesb, Peter Molenaarb, Ping Li

Abstract: A great deal of research has examined behavioral performance changes associated with second language learning. But what changes are taking place in the brain as learning progresses? How can we identify differences in brain changes that reflect successes of learning? To answer these questions, we conducted a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study to examine the neural activities associated with second language word learning. Participants were 39 native English speakers who had no prior knowledge of Chinese or other tonal language, and were trained to learn a novel tonal vocabulary in a six-week training session. Functional MRI scans as well as behavioral performances were obtained from these learners at two different times (pre- and post-training). We performed region of interest (ROI) and connectivity analyses to identify effective connectivity changes associated with success in second language word learning. We compared a learner group with a control group, and also examined the differences between successful learners and less successful learners within the learner group across the two time points. Our results indicated that (1) after training, learners and non-learners rely on different patterns of brain networks to process tonal and lexical information of target L2 words; (2) within the learner group, successful learners compared to less successful learners showed significant differences in language-related regions; and (3) successful learners compared to less successful learners showed a more coherent and integrated multi-path brain network. These results suggest that second language experience shapes neural changes in short-term training, and that analyses of these neural changes also reflect individual differences in learning success.

Keywords: Second language word learning; Tonal learning; Individual differences; fMRI; Effective connectivity

Source: Jounrnal of Neurolinguistics, 2015, 33, 29-40


Title: L1 and L2 chinese, German and Spanish Speakers in Action: Stancetaking in Intergenrational and Intercultural Encounters

Author: M. Cordella Huang

Abstract: The Australian population is culturally and linguistically diverse, with over 400 languages identified in the 2011 national census. Nationally, 18.2% of Australians predominantly speak a language other than English at home, while in the state of Victoria, where this study was conducted, two or more languages are used in 25.7% of households, with 23.1% of individuals pre-dominantly speaking a language other than English at home (ABS, 2012). Some of these languages are spoken mainly by older migrants, whose level of English may be poor. This latter fact can limit opportunities for social participation, leading to feelings of isolation and disengagement (Angel &  Angel, 1992; Kritz et al., 2000; Lee & Crittenden, 1996; Litwin, 1995). This isolation, in turn, may become a predictor of poor general health. In contrast, active social participation has been shown to enhance older people’s health and wellbeing (Newman & Brummel, 1998; Seeman & Crimmins, 2001). Further, the opportunity to share their language and cultural heritage with  young people in their adopted country can give older migrants a renewed purpose in life (Clyne  et al., 2013).Migrant human resources remain underutilised in Australia and yet reports from secondary education sectors (e.g. Liddicoat et al., 2007) lament that second language (L2) students are seldom able to interact with native speakers in a natural setting (Clyne, 2005). This is seen as an obstacle to their motivation and development to continue learning the language at school. Liddicoat et al.(2007) report low levels of participation, achievement and retention rates in language learning programmes in Australian schools.

Source: Challenging the Monolingual Mindset, J. Hajek & Y. Slaughter (ed.), 2014, 97-112. Toronto: Multilingual Matters.