The 2nd International Conference on Spoken Chinese Corpora: From Theory to Pedagogical Applications August 10-11, 2016, Houston (USA)
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The 2nd International Conference on Spoken Chinese Corpora:
From Theory to Pedagogical Applications August 10-11, 2016, Houston (USA)

The 2nd International Conference on Spoken Chinese Corpora, organized by the Center of Languages & Intercultural Communication at Rice University and co-sponsored by Nanjing University and Beijing Language and Culture University, was held at Rice University in Houston, Texas, from Austin 10-11, 2016.

The use of spoken Chinese corpora, collected from both learners' and L1 speakers' data, is critical for the research and teaching of language. In contrast with languages such as English, where major spoken corpora and research products are available, the field of Chinese finds little available open-source spoken corpora and systematic applications. However, Chinese linguists and pedagogical specialists have been increasingly aware of the vital role that spoken corpora play in research and language teaching, as evidenced by the increased activities in corpus construction and research dissemination. The goal of this Conference, which is a continuation from the first one held in [End Page 248] Nanjing in 2015,1 was to provide a forum where scholars could share ideas and innovations about the design, development, and use of spoken Chinese corpora. The focus of the 2016 Conference was to link theory and pedagogical applications. This review highlights the papers that provided substantial research-informed instructional designs and pedagogical suggestions in three areas: 1) naturally occurring conversation; 2) interlanguage; 3) lexicon.


The importance of using naturally occurring conversation in classroom teaching was recognized and accentuated in this forum. Furthermore, concrete pedagogical approaches and assessment were suggested.

Hongyin Tao (UCLA), one of the plenary speakers, in his presentation "Exploiting Spoken Corpora for Chinese Language Research and Teaching," showcased many types of linguistic information in multimodal corpora of spoken conversation, such as the type of pragmatic information conveyed by prosodic features in speech. For example, how "zhidao" (知道) is produced, depending on the lengthening or shortening of the syllables, conveys different messages in context. In his talk, Tao provided explicit instructions for the teaching of conversational prosody, leading students to become aware of the information and pragmatic meaning carried by utterances that are lengthened, stressed, used with a rising intonation or an expressive intonation, etc. Tao also pointed out the importance of paying attention to high frequency core lexicon (around 300) and lexical bundles observed in spoken corpora, in both English and Chinese, that are used in everyday conversation. Teachers can take advantage of these, usually overlooked features, of naturally-occurring spoken corpora.

I-Ni Tsai (National Taiwan University) presented "Listener Responses as Stance Display: Reactive Expressions and their Uses in daily Mandarin Conversation." Tsai analyzed and defined the reactive expressions, such as 真的啊, 也是啦, 好像是吧, collected from the conversational interactions among young people in Taiwan. Tsai suggested that the reactive expressions indicate various degrees of "speaker's stand alignment": total agreement (对对对,没错), partial agreement (也对,还好 [End Page 249] 啦), and casting doubt (不好看吗?真的吗?). Her study demonstrated that it is critical to guide students to explicitly learn the reactive expressions and use them in appropriate contexts. By focusing learners on reactive tokens they can become aware of the turn-taking mechanism in daily interactions and develop their proper conversation skills.

Liang Fu's (Rice University) paper "Using Chinese Spoken Corpus to Teach Chinese for Medical Purposes"2 described the pedagogical design of the course "Chinese for Medical Professionals" that was structured on the basis of natural conversations collected among doctors and patients. In her college-level course, students were guided to notice the listener behaviors displayed by Chinese doctors in their conversational interactions with patients. In comparison to other casual conversations among native speakers, doctors in her data tended to use more backchanneling expressions (哦,嗯) and they repeated their patients' statements to acknowledge their understanding of what patients were describing. On the other hand, they were not likely to use overlapping talking (or collaborative finishes), giving patients time and space to complete their statements. These listener behaviors among doctors were indicative of their identity as professionals and their sensitivity in medical social interactions.

Meng Yeh's (Rice University) paper focused on "Teaching Interactional Practices through Building Corpora of Spoken Language." (see footnote 2) Using research...