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Revitalizing Endangered Languages

Edited by Justyna Olko & Julia Sallabank

Revitalizing Endangered Languages "This guidebook provides ideas and strategies, as well as some background, to help with the effective revitalization of endangered languages. It covers a broad scope of themes including effective planning, benefits, wellbeing, economic aspects, attitudes and ideologies."

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Dissertation Information

Title: The Acquisition of the English Determiner Phrase by Japanese and Spanish learners of English Add Dissertation
Author: Neal Snape Update Dissertation
Email: click here to access email
Institution: University of Essex, BA in English Language & Linguistics Schemes
Completed in: 2006
Linguistic Subfield(s): Applied Linguistics;
Subject Language(s): English
Director(s): Roger Hawkins

Abstract: The acquisition of articles in English is notoriously difficult for second language (L2) learners of languages without articles. Early studies by Huebner (1985), Parrish (1987) and Thomas (1989) reported omission and substitution errors in their data. Recent accounts of omission of articles in obligatory contexts suggest variously that there is a mapping problem between the morphological or PF component and the syntax (Robertson 2000, White 2003), a representational deficit problem (Kuribara 1999, Hawkins et al in progress) and an inability to represent articles prosodically (Goad & White 2004, 2006). Substitution errors are claimed to be the result of a failure to set an ‘article choice parameter’ appropriately for English (Ionin 2003a, Ionin et al 2004). The current thesis extends this work on L2 English by investigating speakers whose L1s are Japanese and Spanish. Japanese is an article-less language, while Spanish marks definiteness and plural, like English. Specifically, the investigation tests the success of the existing hypotheses in accounting for the performance of these speakers in a series of experimental tasks. Additionally it examines whether a ‘nominal mapping parameter’ proposed by Chierchia (1998a), which determines whether bare NPs in a language are argumental, predicative or of both types, provides insight into L2 learners’ knowledge of the English nominal domain.
Results from a grammaticality judgement task, forced choice elicitation tasks and oral/written production tasks show that the Japanese L2 learners can distinguish between countable and uncountable nouns but continue to have difficulties with definite the in plural and mass contexts and with indefinite a in count singular contexts. The results are consistent with the claim that the Japanese and Spanish L2 learners can reset the Nominal Mapping Parameter. Substitution of the for a and a for the was found in the forced choice elicitation tasks, but it is argued that this is not the result of an inability to set an article choice parameter. Rather, it is expected given that L2 learners from article-less languages have to 1.) remap features made available by the L1 or via UG to forms in the L2 (Lardiere 2005) and 2.) they lack knowledge about the syntax-pragmatic interface rules (Bos et al 2004, Hopp 2004). Overall, the Spanish L2 learners behaved much more like the native speakers on all the tasks.
It is argued that the findings are consistent with the Full Transfer/Partial Access (Hawkins & Chan 1997) and Full Transfer/Full Access (Schwartz & Sprouse 1994, 1996) hypotheses.