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Investigating Variability in the Acquisition of English Functional Categories by L1 speakers of Latakian Syrian Arabic and L1 speakers of Mandarin Chinese

Melhem, Woroud (2016) Investigating Variability in the Acquisition of English Functional Categories by L1 speakers of Latakian Syrian Arabic and L1 speakers of Mandarin Chinese. PhD thesis, University of Essex.

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Abstract

A widely studied L2 behaviour in the SLA literature is that of the inconsistency in the production of functional morphology by advanced and endstate L2 learners. The level of inconsistency seems to vary among L2 learners, for instance, SD, a Turkish endstate learner of English (White 2003a) was highly accurate in the production of English inflectional morphology compared with Patty, also an endstate learner of English whose L1 is Chinese (Lardiere 2007). The literature is divided on whether to consider the absence of overt morphology in L2 performance to be a reflection of underlying syntax, thus indicating the absence of corresponding syntactic features, or whether it is an indication of a missing surface inflection only. A proponent of the first account is Hawkins (2009) who claims that a deficit in the L2 syntax, exemplified by the inability of L2 learners to acquire uninterpretable features not instantiated in the L1 grammar beyond the critical period causes the inconsistent suppliance of functional morphology in the interlanguage. On the other hand, Lardiere (2008) and Goad et al. (2003) describe types of post-syntactic problems causing variability: difficulty in mapping between different components of the grammar, and L1 transfer of prosodic structures, respectively. To test the claims of the above hypotheses, this study provides comparative data from two groups of L2 learners who differ with respect to the L1: Latakian Syrian Arabic or Mandarin Chinese. These two languages differ from each other in terms of which functional features are overtly represented in the morphosyntax, but are similar in the manner functional material is prosodified in relation to stems. Results based on the data collected do not lend support to claims of L1 prosodic transfer; they are rather compatible with an account that combines claims from both the Representational Deficit Hypothesis and the Feature Re-assembly hypothesis.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Subjects: P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
Divisions: Faculty of Social Sciences > Language and Linguistics, Department of
Depositing User: Woroud Melhem
Date Deposited: 05 Jan 2017 12:48
Last Modified: 27 Feb 2017 15:57
URI: http://repository.essex.ac.uk/id/eprint/18722

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