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LINGUIST List 16.2386

Tue Aug 16 2005

Diss: Lang Acquisition: Nagao: 'Some Difficulties ...'

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        1.    Jun Nagao, Some Difficulties in Responding to Negative Polar Interrogatives and Negative Declaratives in English


Message 1: Some Difficulties in Responding to Negative Polar Interrogatives and Negative Declaratives in English
Date: 15-Aug-2005
From: Jun Nagao <j_nagaohotmail.com>
Subject: Some Difficulties in Responding to Negative Polar Interrogatives and Negative Declaratives in English


Institution: Ball State University
Program: Department of English
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2005

Author: Jun Nagao

Dissertation Title: Some Difficulties in Responding to Negative Polar Interrogatives and Negative Declaratives in English

Linguistic Field(s): Applied Linguistics
                            Language Acquisition

Subject Language(s): English (ENG)

Dissertation Director:
Christopher M. Ely
Elizabeth M. Riddle
Mary Theresa Seig
Sadatoshi Tomizawa

Dissertation Abstract:

Traditional Japanese learners of English as a Foreign Language (EFL) are
taught to respond to negative questions (e.g. Do you not like English?)
with yes for positive answers (e.g. Yes, I do) and no for negative answers
(e.g. No, I don't). However, this is subject to variation in native speaker
usage.

This study aimed to determine the conditions under which native English
speakers actually respond to negative questions with yes vs. no, and to
compare the usage with that of Japanese EFL learners.

To this end, 22 native English speakers and 22 Japanese students were
individually shown 21 TV and movie video clips containing negative
questions of varied form and discourse function. After each clip, the
subjects were asked to imagine whether the addressee in the video would
respond with yes or no, and to fill in the blank accordingly on an answer
sheet.

Contrary to the traditional EFL rule, variation was found when negative
questions conveyed a negative assumption, and when the pragmatic functions
were 1) testing a new negative assumption or 2) seeking agreement on a
negative assumption. The results also indicate that no to disagree with a
negative assumption was much more common than yes to agree with a negative
assumption.

The Japanese group's answers followed the EFL rule significantly more often
than the American group's on the same video task. This indicates that
knowing the EFL rule influenced the Japanese group's performance and
contributed to the gap between the two groups.

Except for one instance of possible negative influence from the
cross-cultural differences in politeness norms, the Japanese group showed
variation from the EFL rule only where the American group did. Finally,
high-advanced subjects and/or those residing in the U.S. over four years,
sometimes departed from the traditional EFL rule in favor of more natural
English usage. I conclude that this cannot be attributed to native 
language influence.





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