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A Textbook-Based Study on Measure Word Acquisition in Learners of Chinese as A Second Langauge

The Chinese language features a rich class of words called measure words that serve as units for counting objects and actions. In comparison with English and other Indo-European languages, Chinese makes much more extensive use of measure words. American students who study Chinese as a second language often find it hard to acquire the usage of Chinese measure words. To obtain a comprehensive and objective evaluation of students’ measure words acquisition, I designed an experiment where measure words as introduced in Integrated Chinese are collected. In the current study, measure words are divided into two categories by their semantic features: Concrete Measure Words and Abstract Measure Words. If a measure word directly relates to its object’s concrete exterior shape, and image thought plays an important role when people try to use this measure word, it is called a concrete measure word. Abstract measure words are those which have no obvious relation to an object’s exterior image, and whose usages mainly rely on people’s abstract thought. Students are divided into two grades based on how long they have studied Chinese: Grade 1 and Grade 2. Survey results show that students’ acquisition of concrete measure words is significantly better than their acquisition of abstract measure words. Furthermore, there is no obvious difference between measure words acquisition of the two grades; visual aids can facilitate concrete measure words acquisition to some extent. Conclusions of survey results reveal some practical principles of measure words teaching. First, concrete measure words and abstract measure words should be treated differently in classroom teaching. Second, different teaching strategies should be adopted to teach students from different grades. Third, analyzing semantic features and providing visual aids are useful methods when teaching concrete measure words. This thesis includes five chapters. Chapter One summarizes related work in previous studies and points out the importance of future research on Chinese measure words acquisition. Chapter Two focuses on the design of the survey where experimental settings, including objects, participants, survey design, and study methods, are introduced. In Chapter Three, I discuss the experimental results in more detail and summarize typically misused measure words. Chapter Four focuses on the teaching material study where I analyze the arrangements of contents related to measure words, and discuss the merits and shortcomings of the teaching materials currently used. In the last chapter, I summarize some suggestions on teaching strategies inspired by this study.