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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 Development of Aspect in a Second Language Add Dissertation
Author: Kevin McManus Update Dissertation
Email: click here to access email
Institution: Newcastle University, School of Modern Languages
Completed in: 2011
Linguistic Subfield(s): Language Acquisition;
Subject Language(s): French
Director(s): Florence Myles
Richard Waltereit

Abstract: This thesis investigates the second language (L2) acquisition of aspect.
Aspect is considered to be a universal property of language (Chung and
Timberlake, 1985; Comrie, 1976; Klein, 1994, 1995; Smith, 1991, 1997).
Therefore, all natural languages are thought to be able to convey the same
aspectual meanings. However, languages do not always convey these meanings
in the same ways. For example, although French and English are able to
convey viewpoint aspect by tense, they differ from each other in the
particular aspectual meanings they map to individual tenses. In other
words, English and French differ in how they pair form with meaning for
viewpoint aspect. In German, viewpoint cannot be conveyed by tense alone
and semantics and pragmatics are required for viewpoint interpretation
(Bohnemeyer and Swift, 2004). So whilst languages are able to convey the
same meanings, there are differences in how they go about doing this. This
raises the question of the role of learners' L1 in the L2 development of
aspect (e.g. Domínguez, Arche and Myles, 2011; Gabriele, 2005, 2009;
Montrul and Slabakova, 2002, 2003; Slabakova, 2000, 2002, 2008). In other
words, do differences in how aspect is expressed in the L1 affect how it
develops in the L2?

The role of prototypes in the L2 development of aspect has been widely
documented as an influencing factor (e.g. Andersen and Shirai, 1994, 1996;
Bardovi-Harlig and Bergström, 1996; Bardovi-Harlig, 2000; Labeau, 2005;
Salaberry, 1998, 2000). The Aspect Hypothesis (Andersen and Shirai, 1994,
1996) indicates that learners are sensitive to prototypes: L2 development
is characterized by initially pairing prototypes of viewpoint with
situation type. These form-meaning relationships then become less
restricted as L2 proficiency increases.

Central to this thesis is the effect to which L1 form-meaning pairings and
prototypes affect the L2 development of aspect. This study‟s research
questions are as follows:

How do learners express perfective and imperfective viewpoint aspect?
What role do L1 form-meaning pairings have in the L2 development of
viewpoint aspect?
What role do semantic prototypes have in the L2 development of viewpoint
What are the theoretical implications of the role of L1 background and
semantic prototypes on L2 development more generally?

Participants are English- and German-speaking university learners of French
L2 (n=75) and a control group of French native speakers (n=6). Participants
undertook three tasks: two picture-based spoken narratives and a Sentence
Interpretation task.

Results show significant differences between learners attributable to both
proficiency level and L1 background. English low group learners are
significantly different to German low group learners for viewpoint marking,
especially in imperfective contexts, whereas English and German advanced
group learners are not significantly different from each other.
Furthermore, tense selection is subject to a semantic prototype influence,
with advanced group learners influenced more than low group learners. It is
argued that L1 form-meaning pairings for viewpoint aspect significantly
influence L2 development at the early stages of L2 development. However, as
L2 proficiency increases L1 influence begins to recede and learners develop
L2 form-meaning pairings. At the more advanced stages of L2 development,
semantic prototypes significantly affect tense use. Furthermore,
prototypical effects appear to increase with proficiency, contrary to the
Aspect Hypothesis.