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LINGUIST List 21.4413

Thu Nov 04 2010

Diss: Lang Acq: Sarko: 'The Acquisition of the English Article ...'

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        1.     Ghisseh Sarko , The Acquisition of the English Article System by L1 Syrian Arab and French Learners of English

Message 1: The Acquisition of the English Article System by L1 Syrian Arab and French Learners of English
Date: 03-Nov-2010
From: Ghisseh Sarko <ghissehsarkogooglemail.com>
Subject: The Acquisition of the English Article System by L1 Syrian Arab and French Learners of English
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Institution: University of Essex
Program: MPhil/PhD in Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2009

Author: Ghisseh Sarko

Dissertation Title: The Acquisition of the English Article System by L1 Syrian
Arab and French Learners of English

Linguistic Field(s): Language Acquisition

Subject Language(s): Arabic, Mesopotamian Spoken (acm)
English (eng)
French (fra)

Dissertation Director(s):
Roger Hawkins

Dissertation Abstract:

It is widely reported that second language (L2) speakers of English diverge from
native speakers in their use of articles (the, a, Ø) in two ways: they omit
articles where they are required, and they assign interpretations to articles
that are not those assigned by native speakers. Many of these studies have
focused on speakers whose L1s lack articles (Korean, Russian, Japanese,
Turkish). Within the framework of the Full Transfer/Full Access
Hypothesis about L2 acquisition, a number of proposals for explaining this
divergence have emerged: articles are omitted because learners have difficulty
mapping abstract syntactic representations into phonological forms (the Missing
Surface Inflection Hypothesis); learners assign non-target interpretations to
articles because they are fluctuating between the definite and specific values
of an article choice parameter (the Fluctuation Hypothesis), or they have
difficulty with 'feature assembly' in the L2 (Hawkins et al., 2006; Lardiere,
2005). The predictions for speakers of L1s that have articles that encode
definiteness appear to be that these speakers will show much less divergence
when they acquire English, although there is currently little evidence relating
to such speakers.

In this thesis, existing hypotheses about divergence in the use of English
articles by nonnative speakers are tested in the context of L1 speakers of
Syrian Arabic and French. Syrian Arabic differs from English in having no
phonologically overt exponent of indefiniteness; French differs from English in
requiring phonologically overt exponents of
definiteness/indefiniteness in all contexts. Evidence was collected from
participants (including a control group of native speakers) through a
forced-choice elicitation task, an oral story re-call task and a written
production task. Results suggest that both Syrian Arabic and French speakers use
English articles differently from speakers of L1s that lack articles, and
differently from each other. Neither group shows evidence of fluctuating between
definite and specific interpretations of articles (unlike speakers of
article-less L1s), but the Syrian Arabic speakers in particular appear to have
divergent knowledge of article distribution by
comparison with the French speakers. It is argued that these findings are
consistent with Full Transfer of the properties of the L1 initially, followed by
restructuring towards target use of English articles, consistent with Full
Access to Universal Grammar. Persistent non-target-like use of articles appears
to be a problem of 'feature reassembly'.
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