ACQUISITION OF THE CHINESE RESULTATIVE VERB COMPLEMENTS BY LEARNERS OF CHINESE AS A FOREIGN LANGUAGE: A LEARNER CORPUS APPROACH

Open Access
Author:
Zhang, Jie
Graduate Program:
Applied Linguistics
Degree:
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Dissertation
Date of Defense:
September 30, 2011
Committee Members:
  • James Lantolf, Dissertation Advisor
  • James Lantolf, Committee Chair
  • Karen E Johnson, Committee Member
  • Xiaofei Lu, Committee Member
  • Matthew Edward Poehner, Committee Member
Keywords:
  • learner corpus analysis
  • resultative verb complements
  • Chinese language acquisition
  • learners of Chinese as a foreign language
Abstract:
The Chinese resultative verb complements (RVCs) are an important and challenging verb compound structure for English-speaking CFL learners to acquire. Although some research has been conducted on the acquisition order of directional complements and the event structure of RVCs, no research has been conducted that systematically investigates CFL (Chinese as a Foreign Language) learners’ acquisition of RVCs as a coherent construction. Through analysis of a CFL learner corpus, this dissertation describes, analyzes and explains how CFL learners at the intermediate and advanced levels acquire the Chinese RVCs. Specifically, it looks at the learners' lexical, syntactic and semantic choices of the different types of RVCs, and identifies learners’ sources of difficulty in acquiring the different types of RVCs. To address the research questions, a learner corpus of CFL learners was constructed. The corpus consisted of essays written by CFL learners at three proficiency levels: lower-intermediate (LIL), higher-intermediate (HIL), and advanced (AL). A collection of essays written by Chinese native speakers was used as baseline for learner performance. All instances of RVCs were identified and annotated. All deviations of RVCs were tagged. The findings show that although RVCs were found to be not particularly frequent in the learners’ data, the frequency of RVCs grew steadily as the learners’ overall language proficiency improved. Under use of DVCs (directional verb complements) and RVCSs (result-state verb complements) was observed among the learners, and a slight over use of RVCCs (completive verb complements) was observed in the advanced learners. The acquisition of the different types of RVCs reveals very different developmental pattens in terms of lexical diversity, syntactic complexity, semantic expressiveness, and linguistic accuracy. Different sources of difficulty in acquiring the different types of RVCs are identified. Although the three types of RVCs have developed differently in the learners, some important commonalities emerged from the analysis. It suggests that the syntactic and semantic features of the RVCs can be mastered fairly early on, whereas the lexical diversity of the RVCs seems to be a difficult area for acquisition. This shows that in the acquisition of the Chinese RVCs, the mastery of the lexical dimension is not developed hand in hand with that of the syntactic or semantic dimensions. The acquisition of the lexical dimension is much more challenging and takes longer to acquire than the syntactic or the semantic dimension. The dissertation contributes in important ways to a deeper understanding of the Chinese RVCs and Chinese compound structures in general. Instructional approaches are discussed that cater to the characteristics of the different types of RVCs.