SLS Ph.D. Dissertation Defense: Jie Liu

August 17, 2018 @ 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm
B342 Wells Hall
Patti Spinner

Come and support Jie Liu as she defends her dissertation on Friday. Time and location: August 17 (Friday), 1:00 pm, B342


There is a long-standing discussion on whether new functional categories and their features are acquirable by L2 learners, and what the source of non-nativelike L2 performance in production and online comprehension is when morphological marking is involved. The current study employed an elicited production task, a self-paced reading task, a lexical decision task, a classifier knowledge test, and a proficiency test, to investigate the process by which English-speaking learners of Chinese acquire a new functional category, Mandarin classifiers, with a focus on the source of the challenges L2 learners face in the process.

Main findings include: (1) In production, compared to native speakers of Chinese, L2 learners over-relied on the general classifier ge, and used less specific classifiers; (2) L2ers were not sensitive to classifier omission in online comprehension, but they showed sensitivity to inconsistent classifiers that conflicted with the semantic features of the nouns; (3) L2 learners’ lexical knowledge and their lexical retrieval ability play a crucial role in their performance in classifier production and online comprehension.

The results suggest that establishing the new functional category, classifiers, in L2 syntax is not unattainable for English-speaking learners of Chinese. The real constraint may lie at the lexical level. Sufficient lexical knowledge can contribute to native-like performance regarding Chinese classifiers. L2 learners of Chinese differ from native speakers in ability to access co-occurring information between classifiers and nouns in mental lexicon organization with regard to classifiers. The role of L2 proficiency in classifier acquisition is also discussed.