Sociolinguistic Variation in the Speech of Learners of Chinese as a Second Language


  • I would like to thank Dr. Robert Bayley for his constant support and valuable comments on this project. Thanks also go to the College of Arts and Letters of Michigan State University for the funding on the writing-up of this article. I also thank the anonymous reviewers for their insightful comments. All of the errors remain mine.

concerning this article should be addressed to Xiaoshi Li, Department of Linguistics and Germanic, Slavic, Asian, and African Languages, Michigan State University, A-627 Wells Hall, East Lansing, MI 48824. Internet:


With Chinese native-speaker data as the baseline, this study investigates the use of the morphosyntactic particle DE inline image by learners of Chinese as a second language. The general patterns are as follows: (a) DE tends to be deleted more in informal speech than in formal settings; (b) higher proficiency and longer residence in China—more interactions with native speakers—promote DE deletion; and (c) females tend to adopt more formal language style and use DE more than males. The study also found that teachers and textbooks use DE much more often than native speakers. Learners’ patterns of DE use closely follow those of their teachers and textbooks, suggesting the necessity of explicit instruction in sociolinguistic variants in L2 classrooms.