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Title: Cross-linguistic influence in the use of the English simple past tense : the case of Tamil and Mandarin learners
Author: Tiittanen, Mike
Awarding Body: Lancaster University
Current Institution: Lancaster University
Date of Award: 2011
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Previous research indicates that second language (L2) learners may have an advantage in the use of an L2 grammatical structure which is present in their first language (LI) over L2 learners who do not have such a structure in their L 1. Whether this is indeed so with respect to specifically temporal expression is what this thesis has examined. The study sought to determine if there would be L1 influence in the use of the English simple past tense by two different L 1 groups - Mandarin, which lacks a grammatical past tense, and Tamil, which has a grammaticalized tense distinction. In addition to L 1 influence, the role of developmental factors in acquiring the simple past tense of the L2 was also investigated. This investigation involved 21 Mandarin and 21 Tamil intermediate ESL learners. The participants performed the following tasks: a) the grammar section of the Oxford Placement Test (OPT); b) a film retell task; c) an interview; d) a semantic equivalence task; e) a fill-in-the-gap task; and f) stimulated recalls of the fill-in-the-gap task. The quantitative results obtained from the above were subjected to a variety of statistical tests: primarily independent samples t-tests, Mann- Whitney and Wilcoxon tests. A qualitative analysis of the stimulated recalls was also performed. The learners displayed no statistically significant L 1 differences in their: a) OPT grammar scores; b) overall use of the simple past tense in the film retell; c) semantic equivalence task scores; or d) their overall use of the simple past tense on the fill-in-the- gap task. However, the Tamil learners were much more accurate in their use of the simple past tense in the interview than the Mandarin learners. Moreover, on many of the tasks, there were some L 1 related differences between the L 1 groups in terms of the Aspect Hypothesis, regular and irregular verbs, frequency of types of learner mistakes, and frequency of use/mention of past temporal adverbs. The results of this study suggest an effect of both developmental factors and the learners' first language. The developmental factors may be discerned in the greater declarative, as opposed to procedural knowledge, of the simple past tense of both L 1 groups. Of importance to the learners' use of the simple past tense also proved to be the telicity of the verbs and whether they were regular or irregular. The L 1 influence is reflected in the greater accuracy of Tamil learners in the use of the simple past tense in the interview, which is potentially attributable to the existence of a grammaticalized past tense in Tamil but not in Mandarin. Participant L 1 may also have played a role in other L 1 group differences such as accuracy in use of regular versus irregular verbs, the influence of lexical aspect and frequency of types of learner mistakes in obligatory contexts for use of the simple past tense.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available