Associate Professor JiangNan from the University of Maryland was invited to give a lecture on Dec. 12th,2016. The lecture, entitled “Why Is the Plural Marker Difficult forChinese ESL Speakers?”, attracted lots of audience, including Prof. Wang Chuming,Prof. Ren Wei, Dr. Yang Jing from the National Key Research Center for Linguisticsand Applied Linguistics, Prof. Lu Zhi from the Innovation Center for Language Research& Service and Prof. Ma Zhigang from the Editing Board of Modern ForeignLanguages, and other teachers and students as well. The lecture was hosted by Prof.Xu Hai, the Vice Director of the center.
Jiang’sresearch focuses on the difficulty of learning English plurals by ESL speakers.He firstly reviewed early studies on grammatical morpheme and pointed out theirshortcomings. He then introduced his secession of studies on investigating thedifficulty in learning English plurals by improving research design since 2004.The difficulty for ESL speakers learning English plurals, he proposed, shouldlie with the morphological congruency effect between L1 and L2 on plurals. Forexample, as plural morphemes can be found in Russian, Russians are equippedwith routinely activated plural meaning in their preverbal message and they onlyneed to learn the English form of plurals, which leads to a high automaticity.While Chinese learners lack such grammaticalized meaning in their mother tonguethat they should build up plural meaning first in their preverbal message,which requires more explicit process and hinders their final attainment. Prof.Jiang also reported a sentence-picture matching task which verified the abovehypothesis.
Prof. Jiang has endeavoured for years to makeimprovements on research design to obtain convincing evidence for the acquisitionof English plurals and has published several influential papers. After thelecture, there was a heated discussion on related topics on the issue.