An investigation into the impact of native language on the acquisition of the English Article System

Gatland, Rebecca (2014) An investigation into the impact of native language on the acquisition of the English Article System. BA dissertation, University of Portsmouth.

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    Abstract

    The acquisition of the English article system, notoriously difficult for learners of English, is investigated by comparing Mandarin Chinese and Spanish learners’ comprehension and success in utilisation. A major question addressed by previous studies looks at the impact of native language on the acquisition of the English article system, role of L1 transfer or Universal Grammar (UG). Chinese does not feature articles in its language, whereas Spanish exhibits similar use of articles. Based on materials previously implemented by Ionin, Ko and Wexler (2004) of a forced choice elicitation test, the study focused on comprehension of definiteness and specificity in choosing the correct article.
    Findings reflect those of Ionin et al (2004) and Diez-Bedmar and Papp (2008). It was found that correct answers and mistakes in L2 English article choice did not occur by chance, but reflect each language group. Mandarin Chinese participants firstly gave a larger proportion of incorrect answers and displayed a larger variability of article choice overall regardless of proficiency level, and Spanish participants exhibited native like use of articles, thus supporting the hypothesis that those with article-less languages fare worse in acquiring the English article system than those with articles in their native language. This gives evidence for a role of transfer when native language is similar, but not if there are large differences.
    Post Hoc Tests potentially gives evidence for the Fluctuation Hypothesis (Ionin et al, 2004) that learners with article-less native languages fluctuate, or are unstable in choice between article choices until input helps them to set the relevant parameters. Chinese participants in the higher proficiency group gaining higher correctness ratings suggest a role of UG in the initial state.

    Item Type: Dissertation
    Departments/Research Groups: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Languages and Area Studies
    Depositing User: Beth Atkins
    Date Deposited: 09 Dec 2014 11:48
    Last Modified: 28 Jan 2015 12:45
    URI: http://eprints.port.ac.uk/id/eprint/16088

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