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Title: The acquisition of grammatical tense/aspect distinctions and tense/aspect morphemes in L2 English by native speakers of Syrian Arabic
Author: Taha, Iman
Awarding Body: University of Essex
Current Institution: University of Essex
Date of Award: 2013
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Previous research has shown that even highly proficient second language (L2) learners who have acquired the L2 beyond a hypothesized critical period tend to use forms of the target language optionally where they are obligatory for native speakers. Lardiere (2000, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2009) has recently addressed issues of morphological competence, arguing that the learning task of the language learner goes far beyond the simplistic selection of features from a universal feature inventory provided by Universal Grammar to a more complicated task by having to assemble or map features into new formal configurations in the L2. This claim is tested in this study through the investigation of the acquisition of properties of the functional categories of Tense and Aspect where the L I and L2 differ in their realisation of the properties under study. It is believed that combining the logic of feature re-assembly together with a theoretical account of universals of tense/aspect interpretations could offer explanatory insights into the nature and course of L2 acquisition. A total of 60 classroom-instructed Syrian learners of L2 English and 10 native speaker controls participated in this study and were tested on their knowledge of the simple past, present perfect and simple present at three proficiency levels: lower-intermediate, higher intermediate and advanced. A tense/aspect interpretation task, a gap filling task and a proficiency test were administered in order to collect the data relevant to the tested properties. Results indicate a significant effect for L I transfer as learners approach the learning challenge from the standpoint of how form-meaning associations are instantiated in their LI grammar. Properties involving straightforward mapping between the LI and L2 values proved to be easier to acquire than properties that are differently represented in the L 1 and L2 and hence re-structuring is required. Variability across comprehension and production, and across tasks, is detected for less-proficient L2 learners. It is proposed that a UG-based account can offer testable predictions about the acquisitional process where morphological variability is situated at the mapping/re-mapping level and processing pressure is a determining factor for target-like attainment especially in production.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available