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LINGUIST List 21.2844

Thu Jul 08 2010

Diss: Applied Ling/Lang Acq: Al-Thubaiti: 'Age Effects in a Minimal...'

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        1.    Kholoud Al-Thubaiti, Age Effects in a Minimal Input Setting on the Acquisition of English Morpho-Syntactic and Semantic Properties by L1 Speakers of Arabic

Message 1: Age Effects in a Minimal Input Setting on the Acquisition of English Morpho-Syntactic and Semantic Properties by L1 Speakers of Arabic
Date: 07-Jul-2010
From: Kholoud Al-Thubaiti <k.althubaitigmail.com>
Subject: Age Effects in a Minimal Input Setting on the Acquisition of English Morpho-Syntactic and Semantic Properties by L1 Speakers of Arabic
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Institution: University of Essex
Program: PhD in Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2010

Author: Kholoud A. Al-Thubaiti

Dissertation Title: Age Effects in a Minimal Input Setting on the Acquisition of English Morpho-Syntactic and Semantic Properties by L1 Speakers of Arabic

Linguistic Field(s): Applied Linguistics
                            Language Acquisition

Subject Language(s): Arabic, Standard (arb)
                            English (eng)

Dissertation Director:
Roger Hawkins

Dissertation Abstract:

This thesis reports a study of the effects on long-term proficiency of
starting to learn English in a minimal input setting (the classroom) at
different ages. A total of 132 Saudi Arabian college students participated
in the study, 50 of whom started learning English in elementary school
(3-11 years) and 82 in middle school (12-13 years), along with a control
group of 11 native speakers. Previous research has generally found no
significant starting age effect on long-term proficiency in minimal input
settings - although Larson-Hall (2008) is an exception. The focus of the
present study was on five linguistic properties that differ between English
and Saudi Arabic: vP ellipsis, the use of 'resumptive' pronouns, adverb
placement, the contrast in meaning between progressive/habitual forms, and
the contrast in meaning between preterite/present perfect forms. Data
relating to knowledge of these properties and relevant individual factors
were collected through an Acceptability Judgment Task, Aspectual
Interpretation Task, Gap-Filling Task, Cloze test, and background
questionnaire. Results showed no statistically significant effect of
starting age on second language (L2) performance, but clear effects of
property type. Across varying ages of L2 learning, vP ellipsis, the use of
resumptives and the interpretation of the preterite/present perfect
contrast emerge as the most problematic, whereas adverb placement and the
interpretation of the progressive/habitual contrast appear as the least
problematic for L2 learners. The implications of these findings for claims
about a possible 'critical period' for language acquisition, for the causes
of persistent L2 speaker divergence from native speakers, and for the best
age to introduce foreign language learning in a classroom setting are
discussed.



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