June 6, 2013 at 12:00 pm

Tao Probes New Studies in Ancient Language—Chinese

Liang Tao

Dr. Liang Tao

Chinese is the most commonly used language in the world, with historical evidence tracing back to the Shang Dynasty (1600-1100 BC). With more and more people learning Chinese in an era of globalization, Dr. Liang Tao‘s research shows that there is still much to discover about this ancient language and how it is learned.

Tao, Associate Professor in the Department of Linguistics, has written and c0-authored several articles and edited a book on new developments in Chinese language and linguistics, plus several encyclopedia entries. The Department of Linguistics is in the Ohio University College of Arts & Sciences.

Tao, L. 2012. Serial Verb Construction in Chinese: The Interface of Syntax, Semantics and Lexical Evolution, In Xiao, Y., Tao, L., & Soh, H.L. (Eds.), Current Issues in Chinese Linguistics, 197-234, Cambridge Scholars Publication, Newcastle upon Tyne.

This study aims at providing a unified account of the serial verb construction as a complex predicate in Mandarin Chinese. Adopting the assumption that complex predicates may be broadly viewed as syntactic complexity to present cognitively complex events (Givon, 2009), the proposal of this study differs from most previous studies on the clear boundary of the Chinese serial verb construction. The analyses focus on the internal structures of the clauses to explain the development of the specific syntactic pattern, using the theoretical proposal of clause linkage devices postulated in Role and Reference Grammar (e.g., Foley & Van Valin 1984, Van Valin, 1993, 1997; Van Valin & LaPolla, 1997). The findings support the view that the diachronic change actually demonstrates a general tendency of the development of serial verb construction cross-linguistically.

Lee, Chao-Yang, Tao, L. & Bond, Z. 2013. Effects of Speaker Variability and Noise on Mandarin Tone Identification by Native and Non- native Listeners, Speech, Language and Hearing, by Maney Publishing, London, 16, 1, 10.

Abstract: The purpose of this study was to examine whether speaker variability and noise affect native and non-native listeners differently in Mandarin tone perception. Multi-speaker tone stimuli embedded in speech-shaped noise were presented blocked by speaker or mixed across speakers. The listeners included 20 native listeners and 33 non-native listeners with various degree of Mandarin proficiency, defined by years of Mandarin instruction and baseline performance. The results showed that the mixed-speaker presentation did not affect non-native listeners disproportionately, suggesting that speaker variability did not pose a special challenge to non-native listeners. In contrast, noise disrupted native and non-native perception differently, but it was the listeners with higher Mandarin proficiency that were affected disproportionately. These findings suggest that that not all sources of acoustic variability are equally disruptive to native and non-native speech perception.

Lee, C.-Y., Zhang, Y., Li, X., Tao, L., Bond, Z., August 2012. Effects of Speaker Variability and Noise on Mandarin Fricative Identification by Native and Non-Native Listeners, Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, Melville, NY, 132, 2, 12.

Abstract: Speaker variability and noise are two common sources of acoustic variability. The goal of this study was to examine whether these two sources of acoustic variability affected native and non-native perception of Mandarin fricatives to different degrees. Multispeaker Mandarin fricative stimuli were presented to 40 native and 52 non-native listeners in two presentation formats (blocked by speaker and mixed across speakers). The stimuli were also mixed with speech-shaped noise to create five levels of signal-to- noise ratios. The results showed that noise affected non-native identification disproportionately. By contrast, the effect of speaker variability was comparable between the native and non-native listeners. Confusion patterns were interpreted with reference to the results of acoustic analysis, suggesting native and non-native listeners used distinct acoustic cues for fricative identification. It was concluded that not all sources of acoustic variability are treated equally by native and non-native listeners. Whereas noise compromised non-native fricative perception disproportionately, speaker variability did not pose a special challenge to the non-native listeners.

Xiao, Y., Tao, L. & Soh. H.L., Eds. 2012. Current Issues in Chinese Linguistics, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, Newcastle upon Tyne, 609 pages. (Publication date was set for 2011, but the book came out in March 2012)

Introduction: Chinese is the most commonly used language in the world, spoken by approximately one fifth of the world’s population, including the 1.3 billion people living in China and millions in the Southeast Asian countries. It is also one of the very few contemporary languages whose history is documented in an unbroken tradition extending back to the second millennium BC (Norman, 1988). Chinese is the official language in China, Taiwan, and Singapore, and one of the six working languages in the United Nations. In the United States and Canada, Chinese is the second most spoken non-English language and has entered all mainstream spheres, such as government, business, media, and education. Globally, more and more students are learning Chinese, and more and more people are interested in Chinese – its history, structure, research, new developments. With a focus on current issues on Chinese linguistics studies from various perspectives, this volume intends to be instrumental to readers such as linguists, educators, administrators, specialists, teachers and students of Chinese as a native, second, heritage, or foreign language.

Tao, L. 2009. Syntactic tone and discourse processing in Beijing Mandarin: A case study, Journal of Chinese Linguistics. 37(2), 258-296.

Three experiments tested the role of an emerging syntactic tone in spoken word recognition of Beijing Mandarin Chinese. The study examined the role of the new syntactic tone in lexical access and how synchronic change is perceived in the task of word recognition. The study demonstrates how usage-based grammatical change affects speaker’s mental model of lexical access.

Tao, L., & Guo, L. 2008. Learning Chinese Tones: A Developmental Account, Journal of the Chinese Language Teachers Association. 43(2), 23-50

This study examines the developmental stages of tone production by American students in their first year of Mandarin Chinese learning. The findings of this study pin-point the most challenging aspect of tone production for American students, and suggest that appropriate pedagogical methods and materials are needed for improving tone learning.

Tao, L. 2009. One mechanism, two changes in Mandarin Chinese. in: J. Xing (Ed.) Studies of Chinese Linguistics: Functional approaches. 185-203, Hong Kong University Press.

This study discusses two changes from one specific singular classifier noun phrase in Mandarin Chinese to support the view that grammar is shaped by usage in discourse. The study examines spoken discourse from both diachronic records of vernacular Chinese and recorded Beijing Mandarin conversations to account for the development of two different syntactic patterns out of the same noun phrase. The results of the study suggest that the same production mechanism in discourse may lead to different grammatical changes. Therefore, discourse analysis is a fundamental means in the study of language, grammar and human cognition.

Tao, L. 2010. Conversational Repair. In Hogan, P. (ed.). The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the Language Sciences. 225. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Tao, L. 2010. Reference Tracking. In Hogan, P. (ed.). The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the Language Sciences. 707. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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