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LINGUIST List 24.1941

Mon May 06 2013

Diss: Applied Ling/Lang Acq/English: Vraciu: 'Tense-Aspect Morphology in the Advanced English L2 Variety...'

Editor for this issue: Lili Xia <lxialinguistlist.org>

Date: 05-May-2013
From: Eleonora Alexandra Vraciu <EleonoraAlexandra.Vraciuuab.cat>
Subject: Tense-Aspect Morphology in the Advanced English L2 Variety: Exploring semantic, discourse and cross-linguistic factors
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Institution: Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona
Program: English Philology
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2012

Author: Eleonora Alexandra Vraciu

Dissertation Title: Tense-Aspect Morphology in the Advanced English L2 Variety: Exploring semantic, discourse and cross-linguistic factors

Linguistic Field(s): Applied Linguistics
                            Language Acquisition

Subject Language(s): English (eng)

Dissertation Director:
Anne Trévise
Hortènsia Curell i Gotor

Dissertation Abstract:

Our dissertation belongs to a recently initiated line of studies seeking to
characterise the advanced English L2 variety. We present an integrated analysis
of a series of semantic, discourse and cross-linguistic factors underlying the use
of verb forms by advanced French and Catalan learners of English as a foreign
language. On the basis of a corpus of oral picture book narratives produced by
two populations of language specialists (i.e., English Studies graduates and
professors at several French and Catalan universities), we explore the
distribution of tense-aspect morphology in relation to the aspectual class of
predicates (the Aspect Hypothesis) and the temporal information predicates
encode in narrative discourse (the Discourse Hypothesis). Tense-aspect forms
are also considered from the perspective of the so-called L2 rhetorical style, the
systematic linguistic choices learners make in a given communicative task
drawing both on their learnt repertoire of L2 devices and on information selection
and organisation patterns unconsciously transferred from their L1.

The availability of grammaticalised aspectual distinctions in the learners’ mother
tongues does not ensure a nativelike use of aspectual marking in advanced
English L2. Differences reside in the use of tense-aspect morphology with
durative atelic predicates and in the functional-semantic scope verb forms have
in discourse. Prototypical predicate/form coalitions in learner production were
found to remain strong in the use of the progressive with durative atelic
predicates and to lead to an across-the-board reliance on the progressive, often
in tension with the plot-advancing role of the predicate. The degree of
grammaticalisation of the progressive aspect in the learners’ L1 seems to
interfere with the hypotheses of use concerning the progressive form in English
L2, particularly in the case of the French L1 student group. Only the professor
groups employ tense-aspect forms in a way which is genuinely liberated from
the semantic congruence with the predicate, similar to what was observed in
English L1. With these very advanced learners, the progressive has a discourse-
specific function and becomes optional when viewpoint information can be
retrieved from other elements in the context.

English L2 form-function mappings in the domain of tense-aspect morphology
were also found to be more limited or not to match the ones observed in English
L1. A case in point is the non-progressive present or past form, strongly
associated with plot-advancing contexts in the production of the student groups,
whereas the non-progressive is a default form, encoding a variety of narrative
material, in the production of the professor groups and the English native
speakers. The cross-linguistic analysis of a specific type of narrative contexts,
namely two episodes where the expression of simultaneity plays a central role,
revealed the existence of a subtle L1 influence on the construction of a temporal
perspective in English L2, even with the most proficient learners. These findings
invite to a reflection on the margins of grammaticalised contrasts, where atypical
coalitions arise, and how learners can grasp such peripheral uses in an
instructional setting. They also indicate that L2 oral production at the advanced
stages is bound to a linguistic and conceptualisation filter which is the legacy of
learners’ L1.

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