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Title: The acquisition of the English article system by L1 Syrian Arab and French learners of English
Author: Sarko, Ghisseh
ISNI:       0000 0004 2669 5752
Awarding Body: The University of Essex
Current Institution: University of Essex
Date of Award: 2009
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It is widely reported that second language (L2) speakers of English diverge from native speakers in their use of articles (the, a, 0) in two ways: they omit articles where they are required, and they assign interpretations to articles that are not those assigned by native speakers (Huebner, 1985; Ionin et al., 2004; Lardiere, 2004; 2005; Parrish, 1987; Robertson, 2000; Thomas, 1989; White, 2003a). Many of these studies have focused on speakers whose Us s lack articles (Korean, Russian, Japanese, Turkish). Within the framework of the Full Transfer/Full Access hypothesis about L2 acquisition (Schwartz and Sprouse, 1996), a number of proposals for explaining this divergence have emerged: articles are omitted because learners have difficulty mapping abstract syntactic representations into phonological forms (the Missing Surface Inflection Hypothesis-White, 2003a); learners assign non-target interpretations to articles because they are fluctuating between the definite and specific values of an article choice parameter (the Fluctuation Hypothesis-Ionin et al., 2004), or they have difficulty with `feature assembly' in the L2 (Hawkins et al., 2006; Lardiere, 2005). The predictions for speakers of Us that have articles that encode definiteness appear to be that these speakers will show much less divergence when they acquire English, although there is currently little evidence relating to such speakers. In this thesis, existing hypotheses about divergence in the use of English articles by non native speakers are tested in the context of LI speakers of Syrian Arabic and French. Syrian Arabic differs from English in having no phonologically overt exponent of indefiniteness; French differs from English in requiring phonologically overt exponents of definiteness/indefiniteness in all contexts. Evidence was collected from participants (including a control group of native speakers) through a forced-choice elicitation task, an oral story re-call task and a written production task. Results suggest that both Syrian Arabic and French speakers use English articles differently from speakers of LIs that lack articles, and differently from each other. Neither group shows evidence of fluctuating between definite and specific interpretations of articles (unlike speakers of article-less LIs), but the Syrian Arabic speakers in particular appear to have divergent knowledge of article distribution by comparison with the French speakers. It is argued that these findings are consistent with Full Transfer of the properties of the L1 initially, followed by restructuring towards target use of English articles, consistent with Full Access to Universal Grammar. Persistent non-target-like use of articles appears to be a problem of `feature reassembly'.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available