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Title: Variability in second language article production : a comparison of L1 Thai and L1 French learners of L2 English
Author: Pongpairoj, Nattama
ISNI:       0000 0001 3494 2352
Awarding Body: University of York
Current Institution: University of York
Date of Award: 2008
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This thesis explores variability in second language (L2) production of English articles by speakers whose first language (Ll) is Thai (-articles), and compares it with proficiency-matched learners whose Ll is French (+articles). The thesis addresses a current debate on whether variability in production of second language functional morphology stems from representational deficits or from processing problems in production. The investigation of L2 article production was focused on tightly defined pairs of contexts for which different theoretical positions would predict different learner behaviours. Experiments were designed which measured the level of article omissions (a) in adjectivally premodified noun phrases (Art + Adj + N) vs. non-modified phrases (Art + N), (b) with first vs. second mention definite referents, and (c) with more vs. less attended (less salient) referents. A further study explored article substitution errors, in particular the alleged overuse of the indefinite article in [+definite; -specific] contexts and the definite article in [-definite; +specific] contexts. Results suggest that Ll Thai learners of L2 English, but not Ll French learners of L2 English, omit articles more (a) in adjectivally premodified than in non-modified contexts, (b) with second than with first mention definite referents, and (c) with more attended than with less attended referents. It is argued that these results point against the view that variability in production of L2 morphology stems from processing problems in production only (i.e. the view that assumes that L2 syntax must be target-like), and that they support the view that the variability stems from representational problems, with further knock-on effects on processing. In particular, the results are interpreted as consistent with the combined predictions of the Syntactic Misanalysis Hypothesis (Trenkic 2007) and the Information Load Hypothesis (Almor 1999). The results of the study investigating article substitutions show that Ll Thai learners of L2 English, but not Ll French learners of L2 English, oversupplied the definite article in fill-in-the-gap tasks in [-definite; +specific] contexts, but only when the speaker explicitly claimed personal familiarity with the referent - not when the speaker explicitly denied persona' familiarity with the referent. Similarly, they also oversupplied the indefinite article in [+definite] contexts whenever the speaker denied familiarity with the referent, irrespective of whether the context was [+specific] or [-specific]. This suggests that LI Thai learners of English accept familiarity with identifying attributes of a referent as a possible criterion for the use of the definite article, and non-familiarity as a criterion for the use of the indefinite article. The results are interpreted as arguing against the suggestion that L2 English article choices are UG-regulated (cf. lonin, Ko and Wexler 2004). The results are shown to be consistent with the predictions of the Syntactic Misanalysis Hypothesis instead. The results of empirical investigations conducted in this thesis contribute to the debate on causes ofvariability in production ofL2 functional morphology. The observed patterns of L2 English article omissions and substitutions seem more consistent with the view that variable production stems from non-target-like syntax.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available