Second Language Acquisition of Temporal Meanings Without Tense Morphology: The Case of zai and le in Mandarin Chinese

Xiaolong Lu


This study replicates Slabakova’s (2015) research by conducting temporal interpretation choice test, the goal is to examine whether learners of Chinese could interpret temporal meanings without tense morphology. The aspectual morphemes zai and le are chosen as case study, and three revised hypotheses are proposed based on form-meaning mapping approach (DeKeyser, 2005). Forty bilingual native speakers, 40 CHN 201 learners, and 40 CHN 301 learners with English as their native language took this test. The test results indicate that the data of native speakers of Chinese can basically support the first two hypotheses, but cannot support the third one. Similarly, the data from all the learners can support the first two hypotheses but cannot support the third one. The match between learners’ and native speakers’ performances on the test is also discussed.


temporal interpretation; aspectual morphemes; form-meaning mapping;

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