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University of Pittsburgh


Yi Xu

Assistant Professor, Chinese Linguistics and Second Language Acquisition

Office Location

113C Old Engineering Hall

Phone: 412-624-4923


Office Hours

Spring 2015: Tuesday & Thursday 1:15-2:15 and by appointment


Ph.D., Second Language Acquisition and Teaching (Major area: L2 linguistic analysis; Minor area: Pedagogy; English/East Asian Studies), University of Arizona.

M. A. English Language/Linguistics, University of Arizona.

B. A. English for International Legal Studies, Guangdong University of Foreign Studies.


First year Chinese (CHIN 0001 and CHIN 0002)

Second year Chinese (CHIN 0003)

Third year Chinese (CHIN 1020)

Aspects of the Chinese Language (CHIN/LING 1025/2025) (Spring 2014)

Senior Project/Capstone (Spring 2014)

Research Interests

I am interested in second language acquisition of Chinese, a field which aims to provide a description and explanation of how and why foreign language learners acquire Chinese in the ways that they do. In my research I connect linguistic inquiries with empirical studies in second language acquisition (SLA). Based on observations of the Chinese language itself, such as word order, structural properties, functions and features of grammatical constructions, orthography, etc., I explore how these linguistic factors account for difficulties or patterns in Chinese as a foreign language (CFL) learning.  In seeking explanations for observed patterns, I also consider psycholinguistic factors and cognitive mechanisms. A central issue that I consider in my research concerns what constitutes universal constraints in SLA and what is unique in CFL learners’ interlanguage development.

Other related areas that I have worked on include character learning in CFL contexts, technology integration in foreign language learning, and corpus analysis of Chinese structures.

Selected Publications

L2 acquisition of Chinese relative clauses

Xu, Y. (2014). Processing relative clauses in Chinese as a second language. Second Language Research, 30(4), 439-461, DOI:  10.1177/0267658313511485.

Xu, Y. (2014). Relativization strategies in Chinese as a foreign language learners’ interlanguage. In Huang, C.-T., and Liu, F.-H. (Eds.), Peaches and Plums, pp. 379-400. Taipei: Academia Sinica. 

Xu, Y. (2014). Evidence of the Accessibility Hierarchy in relative clauses in Chinese as a second language. Language and Linguistics, 15(3), 435-464.  

Xu, Y. (2013). CFL learners’ production of relative clauses with demonstratives – From theory to empirical research.  Chinese as a Second Language Research 2(2), 169-192.

Xu, Y. (2013). Acquisition of Chinese relative clauses at the initial stage. In Kecskes, I. (Ed.), Research in Chinese as a Second Language. Trends in Applied Linguistics Series, pp. 216-236. Boston/Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

Xu, Y. (2012). On psycholinguistic and acquisition studies of relative clauses –An interdisciplinary and cross-linguistic perspective. Contemporary Foreign Languages Studies (SLA issue) [当代外语研究], 384(12): 65-89.

Character learning in CFL context

Xu, Y., Chang, L.-Y., & Perfetti, C. A. (2014). The effect of radical-based grouping in character learning in Chinese as a foreign language. The Modern Language Journal, 98(3), 773-793, DOI: 10.1111/j.1540-4781.2014.12122.x.

       Chang, L. Y., Xu, Y., Perfetti, C. A., Zhang, J., & Chen, H.-C. (2014). Supporting orthographic learning at the beginning stage of learning to read Chinese as a second language. International Journal of Disability, Development, and Education, 61(3), 288-305,

Xu, Y., Chang, L.-Y., Zhang, J., & Perfetti, C. A. (2013). Reading, writing, and animationin Chinese as a foreign language character learning. Foreign Language Annals, 46(3), 423-444.

Accompanied by a Youtube video, “Reading, writing, and animation in character learning” (by Xu, Y. & Chang, Li-Yun), as part of Foreign Language Annals’ video initiative for selected articles. Available here

Corpus approaches

Xu, Y. (2014). A corpus-based functional study of shi…de constructions. Chinese Language and Discourse, 5(2), 146-184. DOI: 10.1075/cld.5.2.02xu

Xu, Y. (2007). Teaching Materials and Authentic Language: A Case Study of shi…de Sentences from Corpora. In Cheng, A., He, W., and Mu, L. (Eds.), Essays on Teaching Chinese to American Students, pp. 239-244. Beijing: Foreign Language Teaching and Research Press.

Technology integration in foreign language learning

Head, A., Xu, Y., & Wang, J. (2014). ToneWars: Connecting Language Learners and Native Speakers through Collaborative Mobile Games. Intelligent Tutoring Systems 2014: Lecture Notes in Computer Science, 8474, 368–377.

Xu, Y., & Chang, L.-Y. (Forthcoming in 2014). Computer-Assisted Character Learning Using Animation and Visual Chunking. In Li, S. and Swanson, P. (Eds.), Engaging Language Learning through Technology Integration: Theory, Applications, and Outcomes. Hershey, Penn.: IGI Global. 

Xu, Y. (2007). Re-examining the Effects and Affects of Electronic Peer Reviews in a Freshmen Composition Class. The Reading Matrix: An International Online Journal 7(2): 1–21. Available here.