Edited by Robert Bayley, Dennis R. Preston and Xiaoshi Li
[Studies in Language Variation 28] 2022
► pp. 15–42
The most widely studied aspect marker in Chinese is ‑le. In addition to functioning as a perfective aspect marker to indicate action completion, it can also serve as a sentence final particle to indicate a currently relevant state. It is obligatory in some situations but optional in others. And, because both types of ‑le can be sentence final, the picture is even more complicated. Most studies of ‑le in Chinese as a second language (L2) have been conducted in a generative framework; this study is the first from a sociolinguistic variationist perspective, with native speaker data as the baseline, to investigate how learners of L2 Chinese use ‑le in oral discourse and the factors that influence their use. The data were collected from informal conversations and elicited narratives spoken by 20 high-intermediate and advanced L2 Chinese speakers resulting in more than 4,000 tokens. Factors explored include verb complement type, position of ‑le, optionality, verb type, serial verb relationship, discourse context, sentence type, native language, gender, length of residence, and proficiency level. The results show that verb complement type, optionality, and position of ‑le are the main constraints and that learners use -le at a lower rate than native speakers.