China lecture

November 28, 12:00pm - 1:30pm
Mānoa Campus, Moore Hall 319 (Tokioka Room)

Wednesday, November 28, 12:00 noon

Tokioka Room (Moore Hall 319)

JIANG Song, Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures, UHM

“Do Chinese Classifiers Shape Thought? The Case of Chinese Speakers, English Speakers and Chinese Language Learners”

Abstract: Systems of classifiers, sometimes called measure words, have long been a particular object of investigation in cognitive linguistics. It is believed that classifiers provide a unique window into how people categorize the world through their languages. In this talk, I first report a descriptive study on the semantic structures of Chinese classifiers originating from terms for body parts and show that the linguistic categories formed by these classifiers are embodied and the relationships between a classifier and its associated nouns are modeled on Chinese people’s understanding of the physical and social world, including their personal human embodiment, natural and constructed surroundings, and social environment. Such observation indicates that the Chinese classifier system is not merely an arbitrary system of linguistic categorization, but reflects an underlying conceptual structure. In the second part of this talk, I will report on an experimental study which tests to what extent Chinese classifiers have cognitive impacts on people’s thought processes through comparing the reactions of Chinese speakers, English speakers, and Chinese language learners. The results indicate that the Chinese classifier system does not have a direct impact on conceptual structure, particularly when other general cognitive bases are available during our engagement in classification activities. However, language effects can be activated and exert influence on cognition when linguistic conditions are furnished. To conclude the talk, implications of this study on teaching and learning Chinese as a second language will be provided.

About the speaker: JIANG Song is an assistant professor in the Department of East Asian Languages & Literatures at the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa.

Event Sponsor
Center for Chinese Studies & Confucius Institute at UHM, Mānoa Campus

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