Research in the field of linguistics has focused on syntax and grammar, while studies related to morphology have been relatively underrepresented. However, recent developments in linguistics have prompted researchers’ to pay greater attention to lexicon and morphology. The aim of this paper is two-fold. One objective is to provide, from the perspectives of theoretical linguistics, a descriptive machinery that could serve as guidelines for distinguishing Chinese compounds from other concatenations. The other is to provide an exploratory study investigating the difficulty that adult learners of Chinese as a second language may have when learning compounds of different internal construction. The results indicated that while some types of Chinese compounds were easier than other types for both groups of American and Japanese participants, the compound-recognition and compound-production performance of one group was different from that of the other. Furthermore, it seemed likely that the performances of the two groups were related to features of their mother tongue. The present study extends the scope of morphological studies and, more importantly, the findings contribute to a better understanding of what strategies L2 learners may adopt and what role learners’ mother tongue may play in their compound-acquiring process.