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Title: Second language acquisition of aspect and tense by Saudi-Arabic learners of English
Author: Alruwaili, Ruwayshid
ISNI:       0000 0004 5356 7027
Awarding Body: University of York
Current Institution: University of York
Date of Award: 2014
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This study investigates the influence of first language (L1) grammar on the acquisition of temporal and aspectual distinctions in second language (L2) English at different proficiency levels and in different learning settings. Specifically, the study examines interpretations of aspectual and temporal contrasts by Saudi-Arabic learners of English. The two languages share the same underlying representations involving formal syntactic features, but they are different in the morphological configurations that determine which aspectual/temporal meaning is selected. Two different tasks were administered to three learning groups: an acceptability judgment task and a gap-filling task. The learning groups were classified according to learning context (classroom vs. immersion) and performance on a cloze test. The findings revealed that Saudi-Arabic learners of English were able to establish the aspectual contrast between the habitual and progressive and produce these forms to a target-like level. However, they were unable to establish the temporal contrast between the preterite and present perfect. The investigation revealed that the learners’ behaviour on the preterite vs. present perfect contrast was constrained by their L1 grammar. Theoretical implications of these findings are that uninterpretable features are retrievable from universal inventory contra the Interpretability Hypothesis (Hawkins et al. 2008). Besides, the Aspect Hypothesis, which claims that verbal morphology is influenced by lexical aspect, the findings show that it is less likely to predict the route of L2 acquisition of tense and aspect distinctions at a later stage (Andersen & Shirai 1996). However, the results suggest that the Feature Reassembly can accommodate and predict the observed disparity in the performance of Saudi speakers (Lardiere 2008). As for pedagogical implications, the findings suggest that L2 learners follow a similar developmental route regardless of learning context, and explicit instruction does not necessarily guarantee acquisition. The overall conclusion is that L1 grammar might be deterministic in establishing the target-like interpretation, especially when other factors such as input come in play. Therefore, the approach to L2 acquisition should not only consider properties of L1 grammar but also the role of L2 input and the interaction between them in the course of development.
Supervisor: Marsden, Heather Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available