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Title: Interpretation of English reflexives by child and adult L2 learners
Author: Al Kafri, Amer
ISNI:       0000 0004 2741 1387
Awarding Body: University of Newcastle Upon Tyne
Current Institution: University of Newcastle upon Tyne
Date of Award: 2013
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The question of adult L2 learners’ UG access is still under debate. One way of casting new light on this debate is by comparing the performance of adult L2 learners with that of child L2ers who presumably still have access to UG (Schwartz, 2003). This study compares Arabic- and Chinese-speaking child and adult L2ers’ acquisition of English reflexives, in particular, the differences between child and adult L2ers in terms of their a) acquisition of the local binding of English reflexives, b) obedience of UG constraints on reflexives and c) knowledge of the syntactic difference between reflexives and pronouns. While English and Arabic allow only local binding of reflexives, Chinese allows local and long-distance binding of reflexives: (1) Arabic: hummai simɁ-u Ɂinn NP[Ɂahmad w mona]j bi-y-Hibb-u nafs-uhum*i/ j they heard-3pl that Ahmad and Mona PRES-3-like-pl self-their “They heard that Ahmad and Mona like themselves.” (Osman, 1990: 160) (2) Chinese: Zhangsani renwei Lisij zhidao Wangwuk xihuan zijii/j/k/ ta ziji*i/*j/k Zhangsan thinks Lisi knows Wangwu likes self he-self “Zhangsan thinks that Lisi knows that Wangwu likes himself.” (Progovac, 1993: 757) 60 L2 learners were given a word-based MLU proficiency test (Whong-Barr and Schwartz, 2002) to confirm their proficiency level and then divided into six groups: Arabic-speaking children (n= 15), Arabic-speaking adults (n= 15), Chinese-speaking children (n= 15), Chinese-speaking adults (n= 15), an L1-English child (mean age 9.60) control group (n= 15), and an L1-English adult control group (n= 15). The L2 children had arrived before the age of six and had lived in the UK for about 2.5 years at testing. The L2 adults had arrived after the age of sixteen and had lived in the UK for about two years at testing. L2ers’ interpretation of English reflexives was elicited through a 48-item Simon Says game (Simon says Jack should touch himself) where participants individually met the experimenter to play the game (Chien and Wexler, 1990). Results showed significant differences between the performance of the L2 groups and native speakers, yet the majority of L2ers were close to an 83.33% threshold of acquisition. Results also showed no significant difference between the child and adult L2 groups indicating continued operation of UG. As for the syntactic difference between reflexives and pronouns, L2ers did not differentiate between them, scoring higher in reflexives. Overall, this study supports the view that adult L2ers can have access to UG in advanced stages of L2 acquisition.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Al-Furat University in Syria
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available