Processing Constraints, Categorial Analysis, and the Second Language Acquisition of the Chinese Adjective Suffix -de(ADJ)


  • The author is a lecturer at the School of Languages and International Education, University of Canberra, Australia. She has been working on a Chinese-English/English-Chinese dictionary project at the University of Hawai‘i since 2001.

  • An earlier version of this article was presented as a paper at the 11th EuroSLA Conference held in Paderborn, Germany, September 26–29, 2001, and at a seminar in the department of Second Language Studies at the University of Hawai‘i in November 2001. I wish to thank all participants for their comments and criticisms. I am especially grateful to Bruno Di Biase, Satomi Kawaguchi, Y.-C. Li, Manfred Pienemann, William O’Grady, Karl Rensch, Gi-Hyun Shin, and Virginia Yelei Wake for their comments and assistance on various aspects of the article and at various stages of the revision. My gratitude also goes to the three anonymous reviewers for Language Learning and to the journal's editor, Kathleen Bardovi-Harlig. Their critiques and suggestions guided me through the revision process. Any errors and problems that remain are entirely mine.

Yanyin Zhang, School of Languages and International Education, University of Canberra, ACT 2601, Canberra, Australia. Internet: yanyin.zhang@


The study investigates the second language (L2) acquisition of the adjective marker -de(ADJ) in Chinese. It explores the interaction between processing constraints as represented in processability theory (Pienemann, 1998) and the learner's categorial analysis of Chinese adjectives and stative verbs (which cross-categorize) in the acquisition process. An examination of 3 longitudinal L2 data sets revealed more stative verbs (Vstatives) than adjectives in the learners' L2 Chinese. Furthermore, there appeared to be a correlation between the number of adjectives in the L2 samples and the developmental schedule of -de(ADJ). The reasons for the findings were explored through the processing procedures required for the structures in which the adjective and the Vstative occur and the impact they had on learners' categorial analysis of adjectives and Vstatives in L2 Chinese.