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CASLAR (Chinese as a Second Language Research)

The CASLAR “movement” is the result of my interest in and admiration for the Chinese language and culture. I like reading about the history of China, traveling and meeting people in China, eating Chinese food and exploring and trying to learn Mandarin Chinese. The first three are much easier than the latter. There is rapidly growing interest in the Chinese language all over the world. However, the interest in Chinese language learning and teaching has not resulted in the development of a strong research background for the discipline. I am firmly convinced that Chinese language learning remains only a unique experience and/or a useful education challenge until strong research background has been established to support Chinese language learning and teaching. In 2010 I launched a project whose goal was to establish CASLAR as an independent research discipline with its biannual conference, journal and international association. As the first step I initiated the 1st International Conference on Chinese as a Second Language that was held on August 27-29, 2010 at Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, China with the generous support of Zhejiang University which is China’s third best university. As the second step in November 2011, we launched the bilingual (English –Chinese) journal “CASLAR” published by Mouton de Gruyter Berlin: New York.

“CASLAR”(Chinese as a Second Language Research) was introduced as a “brand-name” for the conference. Now it is a symbol for all activities: conference, journal and association. Our motto is that Chinese is first of all belongs to the Chinese people. However, it will really be a great language if people of not Chinese origin will decide to acquire it. CASLAR aims to support this process.


The 4th International Conference on Chinese as a Second Language Research will be held on August 19-21, 2016 at East China Normal University, Shanghai, China.

The 3rd International Conference on Chinese as a Second Language Research was held on August 28-30 at the University of Parma, Italy

The 2nd International Conference on Chinese as a Second Language was held on August 17-19, 2012 at the Taiwan National Taiwan Normal University in Taipei

My research interest in Chinese:

1. Situation-Bound Utterances in Chinese
I am firmly convinced that one of the main things that Chinese language teaching should be based on is “situation-bound utterances” (Kecskes 2000:606). I defined situation-bound utterances (SBUs) as follows: “highly conventionalized, prefabricated pragmatic units whose occurrences are tied to standardized communicative situations”.

Chinese examples:
“哪里哪里nǎli nǎli (you flatter me)”

“慢慢吃mànman chī (eat slowly)”

没有什么菜 méiyǒu shénme cài (there is not much food to offer)

你吃了吗? Nĭ chī le ma? (Have you eaten?)

SBUs (suggested term: 惯用语guàn yòng yǔ) are the main representatives of Chinese culture. If they are taught directly students will practice not only Chinese conversation but also get insight into Chinese culture. However, SBUs should be distinguished from idioms (成语chéngyǔ) and proverbs (谚语yànyǔ). SBUs represent an independent group with their use tied to particular situations.
Research should focus on the clarification of differences of SBUs, chéngyǔ and yànyǔ. It is also important to investigate and develop the best methods to integrate SBUs into the teaching and learning process.

2. Consequences of topic-centeredness for the information content of utterances.
Chinese is a topic-prominent language that organizes its syntax to emphasize the topic–comment structure of the sentence. Mandarin Chinese 張三 我 已經 見過 了。-> Original order: 我 已經 見過 了 張三。Transcription: Zhāng Sān wǒ yǐjing jiàn-guò le. Transcription: wǒ yǐjing jiàn-guò le Zhāng Sān. Translation: (As for) Zhang San, I've seen (him) already. Translation: I've already seen Zhang.
The strict word-order in Chinese is similar to that of English. However, the flexibility of topic placement is a unique feature of Chinese. How does topic placement affect implicatures?

3. Role of context in utterance interpretation. In Chinese, semantic information is far more important than syntactical information for comprehension (Liu., et al, 2010; Zhang.,et al, 2010). The context of a statement is essential to the proper interpretation of the statement. For example, 我去学校 (I go to school) may mean “I am going to school” or “I went to school” or “I will go to school” The Chinese language learner must use broader context to resolve the ambiguity. It is very often the broader context beyond the utterance that clarifies meaning. Does this meaning that Chinese pragmatics is discourse-segment-based inquiry rather than utterance-based inquiry?