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Mandarin Speakers’ Acquisition of English Articles: Investigating Article Use in Mandarin and Its Influence on L2-English

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Elaine Lopez


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Mandarin Chinese has no obligatory article system. However, research on the acquisition of English articles suggests Chinese learners behave differently to speakers of other article-less languages (Lopez, 2019; Snape et al., 2006) and this is discussed in relation to the grammaticalisation of determiners in Mandarin (Li & Thompson, 1981). The novel study reported here examines whether use of determiners in L1-Mandarin influences use of the definite and indefinite articles in L2-English. Thirty-three L1-Mandarin advanced-level learners of English completed a forced-choice task to measure L1 use of zhei/nei and yi in Mandarin and L2 use of the English definite and indefinite articles. Participants were highly accurate in their suppliance of obligatory English definite and indefinite articles. The L1 data show a strong association between yi + classifier and indefiniteness, meaning participants use yi where they would use a. The same was not found with regard to zhei/nei as distribution of demonstratives and the bare NP varied across definite contexts. While results show no evidence that L2 participants’ use of English articles is influenced by their knowledge of articles in Mandarin, proficiency and task type may account for this finding. Theoretical and pedagogical implications are discussed.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Lopez E, An Y, Marsden H

Editor(s): Chan, M. and Benati, A.

Publication type: Book Chapter

Publication status: Published

Book Title: Challenges Encountered by Chinese ESL Learners: Problems and Solutions from Complimentary Perspectives

Year: 2022

Pages: 265-283

Online publication date: 02/08/2022

Acceptance date: 02/04/2018

Publisher: Springer

Place Published: Singapore


DOI: 10.1007/978-981-16-5332-2_11

Library holdings: Search Newcastle University Library for this item

ISBN: 9789811653315