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Title: Second language acquisition of the English interrogatives : the effect of different learning contexts on the SLA of three groups of Chinese learners of English
Author: Tang, Gladys W. L.
ISNI:       0000 0001 3498 1634
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 1990
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This study is an attempt to investigate the interlanguage (IL) development of Cantonese learners of English whose exposure to the target language (TL) is mainly from the classroom context and with little or no informal exposure outside the classroom. Second Language Acquisition (SLA) research to date suggests that naturalistic SL learners largely follow a universal route of development. The issue of concern of the present research is whether acquiring the TL in a classroom context involves the same or different processes of SLA and how the learning context shapes the qualitative development in terms of the degree of analyticity and automaticity of IL knowledge. An equally important issue in relation to SLA in the classroom situation is the development of metalinguistic knowledge and in what principled way this type of knowledge assists or hinders the learner's development. Within this framework of investigation, an empirical distinction is drawn between the learner's development of IL knowledge and the extent to which he is able to retrieve this knowledge in production. In the present study, three groups of learners were identified. Two groups of subjects were sampled from the Hong Kong learning context, where English is regarded by and large as a second language. One of the two groups was chosen from the English medium environment, and the other was from the Chinese medium environment. The third group of subjects was drawn from Guangzhou, one of the southern provinces of China, where the medium of instruction is Chinese while English is treated as a foreign language. Although these three groups of subjects share the same Li background, they are differentiated by the availability of informal exposure and the degree of explicitness of grammar teaching received. The English interrogatives were chosen as the target language structure for investigation because they represent one of the taught language items commonly found in the syllabus. Four elicitation tasks were administered: an oral elicitation task, a written dialogue completion task, a grammar correction task and a timed grammaticality judgment task. From the perspective of the general theory of second language acquisition, the results suggest that the classroom learners as identified in the present study largely conformed to the universal `sequence of development' and exhibited similarities in their orders of development. However, it was found that certain features of the learner's order of development at the level of knowledge did not necessarily coincide with that established in his production. Furthermore, an adequate explanation for IL development, as far as this study is concerned, needs to take into account the learner's Li as well as the other types of knowledge at his disposal, as differences were found in the present study which may be traceable to these parameters. In terms of the effect of learning context on second language development, the results suggest that (i) the different learning contexts as identified leads to certain differences in the subjects' IL development as well as the qualitative development of their IL knowledge, (ii) the provision of explicit instruction seems to be more beneficial for more advanced learners than beginners; and when informal exposure is not available in the learning context, and (iii) the availability of informal exposure of the kind found in the present study seems to promote initial IL development at a faster rate than that found in learning contexts in which informal exposure is not usually available.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Linguistics