L2 acquisition of the bei passive in Mandarin Chinese: A constructionist approach

Chen Chen, Feng Hsi Liu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

A major claim in the constructionist approach to language acquisition is that grammar is learned by pairings of form and function. In this study we test this claim by examining how L2 learners of Mandarin Chinese acquire the bei passive construction, a construction that is associated with the meaning of adversity. Our goal is to find out whether L2 learners make the association between the passive and adversity. Participants performed a sentence choice task under four conditions: an adversative context with an adversative verb, an adversative context with a neutral verb, a neutral context with a neutral verb and a positive context with a neutral verb. In each context participants were asked to select either the bei passive construction or its active counterpart. We found that high-level learners consistently chose the bei passive significantly more in adversative contexts than in non-adversative contexts regardless of the connotations of the verbs, while low-level learners made the distinction half of the time. In addition, while low-level learners did not yet associate adversity with the form of the construction, high-level learners did. We conclude that L2 learners do learn the bei passive construction as a form-meaning pair. The constructionist approach is supported.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)169-198
Number of pages30
JournalChinese as a Second Language Research
Volume9
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 1 2020

Keywords

  • adversity
  • bei passive
  • constructionist approach
  • negative meaning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language

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