Asian Studies - Doctoral Theses

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    Effects of training methods on second language learning of Mandarin tones
    (University College Cork, 2022-06-28) Li, Wanlin; Sparvoli, Carlotta; Paramore, Kiri; Guo, Yanyu
    This dissertation investigates the teaching and learning of Mandarin tones. Specifically, it focuses on pedagogical issues relating to the third tone (T3), which developed from different theoretical assumptions concerning the default feature of T3. There are two main assumptions regarding the standard form of T3. The first argues that the Full-T3 (a dipping contour, [214]) is the standard form (Chao, 1930, 1968). In contrast, the second proposes that the Half-T3 (a low-level tone, [21]) is the standard form (Yip, 1980, 2002; Duanmu, 1990; Cao, 2002; Sparvoli, 2011, 2017; Zhang, 2013). In this study, the former is labelled as the ‘Full-T3 assumption’ and the latter as the ‘Half-T3 assumption’. Two pedagogical practices have been developed based on the two assumptions, respectively. The traditional pedagogy is built on the Full-T3 assumption, in which Full-T3 [214] is usually introduced to second language (L2) learners first. A more innovative method is developed from the Half-T3 assumption: the Half-T3 [21] is presented to L2 learners first. They are known as the ‘Full-T3 First’ (FT3-First) method and the ‘T3 [21]-First’ method, respectively (Zhang, 2013, 2017). The T3[21]-First method can significantly reduce difficulties in distinguishing between the second tone (T2: rising, [35]) and the Full-T3 for L2 learners (Moore & Jongman, 1997; Jongman et al., 2006; Sparvoli, 2011, 2017; Zhang, 2013, 2018). According to the Half-T3 assumption, the Mandarin tone inventory that includes the first tone (T1), the second tone (T2), the third tone (T3) and the fourth tone (T4), can be presented as a system of contrasts that involve two pairs of functional opposites: low level vs. high level [T3 vs. T1] and falling vs. rising [T4 vs. T2]. To help L2 learners to build discrete categories for each tone, it is suggested that the T3/T1 tone contrast should be taught before the T4/T2 tone contrast (Sparvoli, 2011, 2017). This is referred to as the ‘31/42’ training method. In contrast, under the Full-T3 assumption, the Mandarin tone system can only be presented in an isolated sequence and the corresponding pedagogy is labelled as the ‘1/2/3/4’ training method. I conducted a training study to compare the two conditions and to find out which one is more beneficial for L2 learners whose native language is non-tonal. Twenty-seven L2 learners of Mandarin at the beginner level participated in this study and were divided into two groups: Group 1 (G1) was trained with the 31/42 training method (which implies the T3[21]-First method), whereas Group 2 (G2) was trained with the 1/2/3/4 training method (in line with the FT3-First method). The results show that the 31/42 training method can improve the tone perceptual ability of L2 learners across all tones and tonal combinations. Moreover, facilitative effects of the 31/42 training were also observed in the L2 learners’ production data. L2 tonal contours were compared with the native speakers’ pattern. The present study is innovative in investigating the theoretical assumptions of the pedagogical methods on T3 in a systemic way. Our findings have significant implications for how Mandarin tones should be taught to learners whose native language is non-tonal.
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    L2 Chinese character recognition: exploring the developmental patterns and benefits of radical awareness training via lexical decision priming tasks
    (University College Cork, 2022-03) Zeng, Yun; Sparvoli, Carlotta; Weingartner, Till
    Due to the features of the Chinese writing system, character reading is a challenging task for L2 learners with an alphabetic background. In the field of Chinese character acquisition, numerous studies (Feldman and Siok 1999; Zhou and Marslen-Wilson 2000; William and Bever 2010; Wu et al. 2012; Zhou et al. 2013; Yeh et al. 2017; Tong et al. 2021) focus on the process of L1 character recognition and, to a far less extent, on L2 learners’ character decoding (Williams 2013). However, the development of L2 character processing patterns has not yet been singled out. This research is intended to contribute to this endeavour by outlining developmental stages of the intermediate and advanced level. The goal is to identify the patterns of L2 learners’ character processing at these two proficiency levels and compare them to the processing pattern activated by L1 readers. The study also aims to explore the modelling effect of a radical awareness training. The prediction is that (a) by increasing the knowledge of the semantic and phonetic information carried by character subcomponents, L2 learners can develop a more native-like word recognition pattern, and (b) that such improvement is also conditioned by L2 learners’ proficiency level. The method employed is a lexical decision task based on the (semantic or phonological) activation of primes on target characters at the lexical and sublexical levels. The present study analyses the process of visual character recognition by an experimental group of 29 L2 learners (13 in the critical group and 16 in the pilot group), compared to the performance of 37 native speakers (the control group), via priming experiments based on a set of 336 pairs of prime and target characters. The cycle test includes four stages of an average span of 10 days, including one week of formal Chinese study (about 18 hours) in between two priming tests. The second test is a repetition of the first test. More specifically, the cycle test consists of a radical knowledge test (only for L2 groups), the first priming experiment (for both L1 and L2 groups), a radical awareness training and the second priming experiment (only for the L2 critical group). The statistical significance of the data has been primarily calculated using the t-Test. Concerning the control group of native speakers, the data are consistent with previous literature and show that (i) they read single characters at about the same speed as compound characters; (ii) the default processing is associated with the semantic information retrieval; (iii) semantic radicals are prioritised over phonetic radicals. Compared to the native speakers, intermediate learners displayed a different processing pattern and advanced learners displayed a similar processing pattern showing a developmental trend: (iv) intermediate learners read single characters faster than compound characters while advanced learners read them at a similar speed to native speakers; (v) intermediate learners used more phonological strategy than semantic strategy while advance learners prioritised the semantic strategy like native speakers; (vi) intermediate learners read phonetic radicals faster than semantic radicals while advanced learners read semantic radicals faster and closer to native speakers; hence, (vii) the degree of similarity to the native speakers’ pattern increases with the level of proficiency. Lastly, (viii) the Radical Awareness Training contributes to a more native-like processing at the sublexical level for both intermediate and advanced learners. In sum, it proves a shift from phonological- and phonetic-radical- oriented processing to semantic- and semantic-radical- oriented processing. This shift took place during the third year of formal Chinese study (between 240-360 hours). The data has shown that L2 character recognition is a developing and modifiable process. As for pedagogical implications, the research has also proven that class instruction and individual study, even for a relatively short period, can speed up the development of character processing towards a more efficient, native-like pattern. In addition, the overall results have suggested the importance of formal instruction on sublexical decomposition. They also indicate the importance of presenting the phonetic information carried by the subcomponents rather than limiting the scope to their semantic value, as typically done in classroom activities on radicals.
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    The development of oral competence: a semi-longitudinal study on English-speaking adult L2 learners of Chinese in Ireland
    (University College Cork, 2022-03) Guo, Rongrong; Guo, Yanyu; Sparvoli, Carlotta
    The semi-longitudinal study explores the impact of learning environments and task type on the oral Complexity, Accuracy, and Fluency (CAF) of adult English-speaking learners of Chinese, investigating when and how the oral performance of instructed L2 learners changes in two contexts: Formal Instruction at-home (FI) and Study Abroad (SA). Moreover, the study discusses relationships between the CAF constructs and those between the sub-constructs, to assess the oral performance of instructed L2 Chinese learners. Two widely documented theoretical hypotheses on attention allocation and tasks, the Trade-off Hypothesis (Skehan, 2009; Skehan and Foster, 2012) and the Cognition Hypothesis (Robinson, 2001; 2003; 2005; 2011) are examined with data collected from ten English-speaking undergraduates from five oral tests across 28 months (including 10-month of SA experience). Our results show that during the pre-and post-SA periods, the students benefit from SA in terms of syntactic complexity (subordination and length of the unit), lexical sophistication as well as speed fluency with small deductions in dysfluency at the cost of accuracy. This is attributable to the study abroad experience as well as rehearsed monologue tasks (cf. Wright, 2020) that the participants took in the study. The SA favors oral gains in terms of speech fluidity, syntactic complexity (length and subordination), and lexical sophistication. The factor of task design must also be taken into consideration when L2 learners’ oral gains are evaluated. After coming back to the FI context for 6 months, a significant decrease, in general, is observed regarding FI at-home maintenance on those oral gains benefited from the SA experience. However, lexical variety reveals significant improvement. The findings suggest that learners in the FI context tend to concentrate on learning vocabulary and syntactic complexity via subordination at the expense of fluency and accuracy (Juan-Garau and Pérez-Vidal, 2007) as well as other complexity measures (syntactic complexity via length and lexical sophistication) in this study. Generalized from the analysis after SA, trade-off effects are observed prevailingly between CAF constructs (in particular between complexity and accuracy, between accuracy and fluency), while simultaneous improvements are present within CAF, in particular, and between speed and breakdown within fluency, and between syntactic complexity and lexical sophistication within complexity. These results confirm Skehan’s predictions that, tensions between control (accuracy) and risk-taking (complexity), and between focusing on meaning (fluency) and form (accuracy) (Skehan, 2009; Wang & Skehan, 2014). Task characteristics were attributed to the analysis because the different characteristics support different performance areas (Skehan and Foster, 2012). Pre-planning is argued to elicit greater complexity and fluency (Skehan, 2009; Skehan and Foster, 2012). For the interrelationship between CAF measures, after learners return to FI at home context for six months, the analysis, in general, supports trade-off effects between lexical diversity and syntactic complexity via length, as well as lexical diversity between fluency. The results contribute to the trade-off hypothesis that, tensions can be found between subconstructs within CAF (complexity). The prioritization of attentional resources is determined by the task types and learning contexts, revealing that vocabulary development is at the cost of syntactic complexity and fluency during FI context (Juan-Garau & Pérez-Vidal, 2007). Moreover, the study provides pedagogical implications and recommendations for the development of L2 Chinese oral performance at university levels.
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    Task-based language teaching in a study abroad context: a longitudinal study of complexity, accuracy and fluency development in Chinese as a second language
    (University College Cork, 2021-12) Chen, Junming; Howard, Martin
    This study explores the impact of task-based language teaching (TBLT) on Chinese oral development in terms of complexity, accuracy, and fluency among Chinese-as-a-second-language (CSL) learners during Study Abroad (SA) in China. Specifically, the study seeks to determine whether TBLT has a positive effect on the development of oral Chinese and its relative effect compared to traditional classroom learning in the context of SA in China. It also investigates the role of proficiency in the case of TBLT in SA. The study seeks to determine how complexity, accuracy and fluency (CAF) constructs and subconstructs among CSL learners in two instructions (a TBLT and a traditional approach) are affected at different proficiency levels in the context of SA. To answer such questions, 36 CSL learners at two proficiency levels (intermediate and pre-advanced) were recruited and assigned to two instruction types over the course of 14 weeks: a TBLT and a traditional approach. Learners' oral production was elicited at two periods of the study (pre-test/T1 and post-test/T2) and transcribed manually. The data were coded for the CAF measures to evaluate the development of oral Chinese in the study, covering fluency (speech rate), accuracy (errors per word), syntactic complexity (mean length of run per AS-unit) and lexical complexity (type-token ratio, Guiraud Index, corrected type-token ratio, word token, word type and lexical sophistication). Results generally showed that TBLT had positive effects on oral Chinese acquisition in fluency, accuracy, syntactic complexity, and lexical variety though not in lexical sophistication. Also, TBLT showed better effects than a traditional approach in promoting fluency, syntactic complexity, and lexical variety but without robust evidence in the case of accuracy and lexical sophistication. These findings provide evidence for the beneficial effect and the superiority of TBLT on Chinese oral development, confirming the efficacy of task-based instruction in the context of SA and calling for attention to formal instruction in SA. They also indicated that the effect of TBLT on Chinese oral development varied in terms of different CAF constructs or subconstructs, suggesting that TBLT is not a "one size fits all" approach for L2 teaching and learning. Additionally, results showed that proficiency level had an impact on Chinese oral development in terms of the CAF constructs or subconstructs in both TBLT instruction and a traditional approach. For the role of proficiency in TBLT, high proficiency learners had an advantage in fluency and lexical variety. However, low proficiency learners showed an advantage in syntactic complexity, and learners at both proficiency levels showed a similar effect in the development of accuracy and lexical sophistication. For the role of proficiency in SA more generally among all the learner-participants, high proficiency learners had better development on fluency and lexical variety while learners at both proficiency levels showed a similar development in accuracy, syntactic complexity, and lexical sophistication. The findings of the current study have implications for TBLT studies in CSL and SA and pedagogical implications for educators and teachers in future practice.
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    Transformation of the state sports policy and system in China (1949–1989)
    (University College Cork, 2019) Shen, Liang; Holzer, Constantin; Qin, Lei; Shanghai University
    Ideologies and the party-state system are key to understanding the transformation of sports policies and systems in Communist China, as they impact significantly on the manner and role of government in developing sport and sports policies. This thesis seeks to analyse the extent to which dominant ideology impacted upon sports policies and systems in China. It also explores the changes in sports policies under dominant ideologies between the Mao and post-Mao era from 1949 to 1989. Gramsci’s contextualised theory of cultural hegemony and Weber’s revised classification provide a critical perspective for analysing the relationship between dominant ideology and sports, enabling us to decipher the relationship between State-Party and sports throughout the shift of political legitimacy from 1949 to post-Mao China (1977–1989). This research has adopted an interpretive perspective to elucidate social construction and changes in political ideology that impacted upon the development of sports policies and systems in Communist China between 1949 and 1989. The transformation of China’s state sports policy is treated as a synthesis of historical narrative, blended with interpretation and reflection of policy documents and interviews, in which key themes are fully explored. Data was collected from a number of sources, including official government documents, news media, and a series of 13 interviews with Chinese officials, scholars and people who experienced this transformation. The analysis reveals that Maoism in practice had a greater influence on sports policies than Communism in China. A contribution made by this thesis is its analysis of the relationship between the components of Mao Zedong Thought or Maoism, including the mass line, and sports policies after the founding of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), especially in relation to the early years of the PRC. Secondly, compared with the Maoist era, sports policies in the 1980s were less affected by ideological requirements, as political ideology in the Party and government policy began to transition into economic pragmatism. This transition fostered the growth of pragmatic and performance-based features in sports policies, which constitutes another contribution of this thesis to the existing research. Thirdly, the party-state system that was formed and developed in the Maoist era remained fundamentally the same during the next era, from 1977 to 1989. However, the launch of market-oriented reform affected more and more aspects of Chinese society, including the sports system. This led to the following contradictions: political and ideological requirements under the party-state system shaped the development of sports policy and system, while post-Maoist market-oriented reform played a profound, irrefutable role in the shaping of sports policy and system by promoting the modernisation of Chinese sports.