The acquisition of temporality by adult second language learners of Chinese
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractThis dissertation is about the acquisition of temporality in the Chinese language by adult native English speakers. The major objective is to chart the course of development of temporality by adult English-speaking learners of Chinese and explore the universals in the acquisition of temporality. The dataset used for this dissertation study consists of the Pear Story narratives produced by twenty native speakers of Chinese and the Pear Story narratives produced by twenty-one English-speaking adult second language learners of Chinese, grouped into three different proficiency levels--the low, the intermediate and the high level. It is found that both native speakers of Chinese and adult learners have available at their disposal a repertoire of explicit and implicit encoding devices in which grammatical means is among the least often used. However, in comparison with native speakers, learners' repertoire is smaller and contains less varied items. Regarding the use of a particular aspectual particle, perfective le, it is found that both native speakers and learners are constrained by multiple factors. However, some factors affecting native speakers have not been acquired by learners yet and even the same type of factors affecting both native speakers and learners have different constraining strengths for the two groups. Clear developmental patterns are found in learners' acquisition of temporality in narrative discourse. As learners gain proficiency in the target language, they grow from preferring implicit encoding to preferring explicit encoding, their use of grammatical means increases against lexical means, and their reliance on the discourse context decreases. These universal developmental patterns are observed in both the foreground and the background clauses. What is found in this analysis highlights the role of input, as most of the development tendencies reflect the grammar and language use by the native speakers. However, there is evidence that L1 transfer could additionally play a role in learners' acquisition of some temporal properties of the target language. The implications of the findings of this study for the teaching of Chinese as a second language and for the acquisition study of aspectual particles in Chinese will also be discussed.
Degree ProgramGraduate College
Second Language Acquisition and Teaching