Use of Verb-Noun Collocations by Advanced Learners of Chinese

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Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
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Chinese linguistics
heritage learner
Other Languages, Societies, and Cultures
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The important role of collocations has been widely accepted in the current literature, but to date there are still relatively few studies on language learners’ collocation knowledge and development within different local contexts. The current study intends to contribute to the literature by investigating the oral production of Chinese verb-noun (V-N) collocations by a group of highly proficient learners comprised of both Chinese as a foreign language learners (CFL learners) and Chinese heritage language learners (CHL learners), as compared to Chinese native speakers (CNSs). The study brings together current literature on collocation and heritage language learners both from a Western perspective and from the Chinese linguistic and sociolinguistic perspective. Samples of spoken language data discussing both academic and non-academic topics were collected through one-on-one interviews with 10 CFL learners, 10 CHL learners and 10 CNSs. The data are analyzed both quantitatively and qualitatively to yield the following three findings: (1) There is a significant difference in using Chinese verb-noun (V-N) collocations among CFL learners, CHL learners, and CNSs. In general, CNSs produced significantly more V-N collocations in terms of both number (token) and range (type) than CFL learners and CHL learners, (2) The two different oral topics are also found to affect learners’ production of collocations. All three groups used more monosyllabic V-N collocations in discussing daily topics and more disyllabic V-N collocations in discussing academic topics. Moreover, CFL learners and CFL learners exhibited both similarities and differences in applying collocations under the two oral contexts, (3) There are different categories and characteristics of collocation usage in terms of the acceptability and communicativeness of non-conventional collocations produced by learners. The discussion further analyzes several factors that tend to influence CFL learners’ and CHL learners’ production of collocations. The findings of this study expand our understanding about advanced learners’ knowledge and production of Chinese V-N collocations. Moreover, they also provide invaluable information for educators and practitioners who are involved in FL and HL instruction of Chinese.

Yuko G. Butler
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