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Title: On the aquisition of grammar and meaning in instructed second language learning : a case study of the development of past verb forms by adult French learners of English as a foreign language
Author: Horner, David
ISNI:       0000 0004 2705 7605
Awarding Body: Institute of Education, University of London
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 1994
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A corpus of written English produced by three groups of adult French beginning learners of English as a foreign language over a period of approximately eight months was examined for evidence relating to the acquisition of past tense forms and related meanings. The findings provide evidence to support several hypotheses which can be usefully grouped within a single framework which sees language acquisition as a process of hypothesis formation and testing whose constraints are both first and second language in origin. These hypotheses can be summarised as follows: (1) Language learning involves the acquisition of a new system of expressing meaning. As a result, the learner engages in a process of matching linguistic form to underlying meaning both within and between languages. Only such a hypothesis, we believe, can satisfactorily explain the apparently random variation that was observed in our subjects' acquisition of past tense. (2) Language transfer is thus necessarily a widespread phenomenon, constraining learners' formation of hypotheses, but is itself constrained by the inter- and intra-language form-meaning transparency of the language item in question. In other words, whenever formmeaning relationships are not wholly transparent, transfer is to be expected. (3) Moreover, even when form-meaning relations are transparent, transfer may take place due to the learner's shortage of processing capacity. When this is lacking, learners tend to maintain communication by relying on existing procedural knowledge, which, at least in the early stages, means well-established first language procedures. This is because, even though humans can process at phenomenal speeds, this is only possible with procedures which are solidly in place. For the vast majority of language learners this implies that first language procedures will always take precedence over weaker second language procedures because they were later traced and are less frequently used. Under the circumstances, where demands are made on the learner, for example, to produce language in real time, there will be a tendency to bypass second language networks and rely on first language circuitry. Consequently, learners make use of their ability to operate a number of strategies (such as planning and monitoring their language output) to produce comprehensible language. This ability, labelled strategic competence, is identified as a key aspect in language use in general.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Culture, Communication and Media