Document Type


Date of Degree

Summer 2016

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Second Language Acquisition

First Advisor

Ke, Chuanren

First Committee Member

Ke, Chuanren

Second Committee Member

Shen, Helen H.

Third Committee Member

Liskin-Gasparro, Judith E.

Fourth Committee Member

Otto, Sue E. Kovacic

Fifth Committee Member

Plakans, Lia M.


The Chinese ba-construction is a frequently used, language-specific construction that is difficult for most learners who study Chinese as a second language. The purpose of this study is to test the effectiveness of a Chinese second language pedagogical model on the ba-construction among college-level English-speaking learners of Chinese. For the ba-construction, namely “Subject + ba + ba-NP + ba-VP (Verb + Complement),” the investigator proposed an L2 instructional model that emphasizes both syntactic and semantic relationships between the ba-NP and the ba-VP. Based on this model and on cognitive theories of second language acquisition, the investigator designed a series of grammar instruction sessions that combined meaningful input, communicative tasks and form-focused instruction on four frequently used types of the ba-construction and one less frequently used type. The instruction sessions were administered weekly to the participants for a total of four weeks. Fourteen participants at two proficiency levels, namely novice and intermediate, were recruited for the study. Quantitative data were obtained from a pre-test, a post-test and a delayed post-test in the form of four measurement tasks: Grammaticality Judgement, Cloze, Translation and Contextualized Sentence Production with Keywords. Using a split-plot statistical model (with the time factor crossed and the proficiency level factor non-assignable), non-parametric alternative tests and a semi-structured interview, the investigator addressed the following three research questions: 1) Is the pedagogical model effectively strong in explaining the ba-construction and facilitating L2 learners’ comprehension and production? 2) Are the instruction sessions beneficial to L2 learners’ understanding of different form–meaning mappings of the ba-construction? 3) Do the effects of the pedagogical model and the instruction vary for L2 learners at different proficiency levels? Data analyses revealed a significant main time effect on participants’ overall performance and performance on each measurement task; the main group effect was not significant except for the Cloze task; no interaction effects were found in either the comprehension or production tasks. While participants acquired the ba-constructions in comprehension significantly better than in production, different trends in acquisition patterns were also found between their performances in these two language skills. After receiving instruction, participants performed significantly better in comprehension tasks and could maintain that level of performance in the delayed post-test; their performance on production tasks became better right after the instruction sessions, but deteriorated significantly afterwards. The participants’ improvement on ba-constructions with directional complements (Type 3) and resultative complements (Type 4), as well as the less commonly used type, was significant in general; in comprehension tasks, participants’ improvement on Type 5 was significantly higher than that for the Type 1 ba-constructions expressing relocation/displacement. Data collected from the semi-structured interviews indicated participants’ favorable evaluation and need for integrated L2 instruction that included elements of pedagogical grammar, especially on language-specific constructions. These results point to the importance of L2 grammar instruction in drawing L2 learners’ attention to form and to the association between form and meaning; instruction plays an indispensable role in communicative L2 classes and serves as a necessary reinforcement to the frequent exposure to meaningful L2 input. For Chinese ba-constructions, instruction that focuses on declarative knowledge is beneficial across proficiency levels.


Ba-construction, Chinese Language, Explicit Grammar Instruction, Pedagogical Grammar of Chinese, Second Language Acquisition, Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language


xiii, 206 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 198-206).


Copyright © 2016 Yupeng Kou