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Title:The processing of two types of Chinese idioms by L1 and L2 speakers
Author(s):Zheng, Hang
Director of Research:Packard, Jerome L.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Packard, Jerome L.
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Bowles, Melissa A.; Sadler, Misumi; Shih, Chilin
Department / Program:E. Asian Languages & Cultures
Discipline:E Asian Languages & Cultures
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
language processing
Abstract:Chinese idioms originated from the pre-Qin dynasty (~ 221 A.D.) and are the linguistic and cultural heritage of the Chinese civilization. However, only 2.47% of the still-in-use idioms have a regular structure that follows the modern language rules (Wang & Wang, 2010). How are the irregular forms processed and understood? This is the core question that this dissertation project sets out to investigate. A critical observation about idioms is that the figurative meaning of an idiom often has nothing to do with the literal meanings of its component words; therefore, how would Chinese speakers comprehend idioms? What about Chinese second-language learners? In Chinese, there are two major categories of idioms: 惯用语 guan-yong-yu (GYY) conventional-use-language, and 成语 cheng-yu (CY) fixed-language. GYYs are often used in informal and spoken contexts, and CYs in formal and written contexts (Chen & Chen, 1994). How do native speakers of Chinese process the two types of idioms? Would the two types of idioms be perceived and processed in different ways by native and nonnative speakers? Does this categorization of Chinese idioms have psycholinguistic grounds? This dissertation project sets out to address these questions through various measurements. The quantitative data of speakers’ metalinguistic judgments and response times reveal the processing patterns for the two types of idioms. First, native speakers process GYYs in the same way as they process the rule-generated phrases with the constituent words being accessed; while CYs are processed differently from their novel phrase counterparts with the internal words not being activated in a priming experiment. Secondly, both GYYs and CYs demonstrate processing advantages over their matched non-idiomatic formulaic sequences (FSs) during native speakers’ processing. Nonnative speakers, however, process shorter phrases faster than longer phrases regardless if they are idioms or FSs. The qualitative data gathered from a think-aloud procedure reveal that even advanced learners of Chinese tend to analyze idioms, and the dichotomous judgment data (e.g., Yes-or-No judgments on grammaticality of the stimuli) tends to overestimate learners’ knowledge of idioms. The investigation of idiom processing in this dissertation presents comprehensive comparisons for the two types of Chinese idioms. The studies also contribute an idiom database that provides descriptive norms for further studies on idiom processing. Native speakers’ ratings and different processing patterns observed for GYYs and CYs provide a psycholinguistic account to distinguish the two types of idioms. Chinese learners’ thought processes contribute new evidence for modeling second language idiom processing.
Issue Date:2019-04-11
Rights Information:Copyright 2019 Hang Zheng
Date Available in IDEALS:2019-08-23
Date Deposited:2019-05

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