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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 Article System by L1 Syrian Arab and French Learners of English Add Dissertation
Author: Ghisseh Sarko Update Dissertation
Email: click here to access email
Institution: University of Essex, PhD in Linguistics
Completed in: 2009
Linguistic Subfield(s): Language Acquisition;
Subject Language(s): Arabic, Mesopotamian
Director(s): Roger Hawkins

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