Tag Archive: Linguistics

The ethnolinguistic identity of the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras Campus’ first-year college students and their attitudes towards the learning of English as a second language (Education Papers posted on March 27th, 2013 )

Day by day teachers and professors have to deal with students attitudes no matter what class they teach. English is not an exception. As a matter of fact, according to experts and to different studies that have been carried out on the Island, English has proved to be one of the subjects in which the attitudes of the students would vary greatly. On the other hand, the results of standardized tests administered on the Island show that the English scores of these tests seem to be getting lower. Experts in the matter say that even when the Puerto Rican students want to learn English, there are few who get to be bilingual. Moreover, after more than one hundred years of North American presence in the Island, there is only around a 25% of bilinguals in Puerto Rico. For more than a century, this problem has acquired great proportions. Both, the first American authorities and the current Department of Education have tried to solve it with no apparent success. The purpose of this study was to explore the attitudes of 1st year Puerto Rican college students towards the learning of the English language in relation to their ethnolinguistic identity. The importance of studying attitudes can be traced back to studies, even before the seventies, that state how attitudes will either inhibit or promote the learning of a language. The study was a descriptive one, performed with a sample of two hundred nine first year students of the College of General Studies in the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras Campus. It was guided through two research questions: 1) What attitudes towards English as a second language do the University of Puerto Rico 1 st year students possess? 2) Is there a relationship between these students attitudes towards ESL and their ethnolinguistic identity? The students were picked by means of a convenience sample, after having made the appropriate arrangements with the professors of the College of General Studies who ceded time of their classes for the study. The students were tested during their English classes. The instruments went through a validation process which not only included the aspect of using questionnaires that had been used for other researches, but also that of evaluating these same questionnaires with both a retrotranslation process and an Expert Judgement process. Afterwards, a pilot test was carried out with a group of first and second year students of both the UPR in Bayamon and the UIPR, Bayamon Campus, in order to detect any bias or difficulty previous to the real study. To analyze and interpret the results, frequency counts and percents were run for both questionnaires and they were subsequently correlated by using Pearson. The expected correlation was not found between the two variables. Instead, according to the study, the students seemed to have both a positive attitude towards English as well as a healthy Ethnolinguistic vitality. Therefore, the correlation shown was, the strongest the ethnolinguistic identity, the more positive the attitude towards a second language. Further studies are recommended to continue improving the quality of ESL on the Island.

The expression of temporality in the written discourse of L2 learners of English: Distinguishing text-types and text passages (Education Papers posted on March 26th, 2013 )

The interlanguage discourse hypothesis Bardovi-Harlig, 1994, 1995, 2000) predicts that language learners use their developing systems of temporal expression to distinguish the main route known as foreground) from side routes known as background) in a narrative text, as is found cross-linguistically in L1 narratives Labov & Waletsky, 1967; Hopper, 1979). Questions have been raised, however, as to whether this phenomenon is an artifact of narrative discourse structure Hopper & Thompson, 1980; Caenepeel & Moens, 1994, Bardovi-Harlig, 2000), or whether grounding distinctions are made in non-narrative texts as well. If learner non-narrative text-types do not reveal temporally distinct main and side structures in the discourse, the interlanguage discourse hypothesis may need to be restated as the interlanguage narrative hypothesis. The current cross-sectional study of 270 essays from 90 learners writing two non-narrative essays and one narrative essay indicates that learners produced texts with temporal profiles that distinguished the narrative from the two non-narratives, and the two non-narratives from each other as indicated by use of past or nonpast time orientation, stative or dynamic verb-types, modality, and a variety of other linguistic resources with temporal features. In addition, learners at all levels of proficiency used temporal expression to produce two types of side passages in the non-narrative texts. Thus, the addition of non-narrative text-types results in broader support for the interlanguage discourse hypothesis. The analysis of learner narratives has provided greater evidence for the development of the perfective than the imperfective Kumpf, 1984; Veronique, 1987; Trevise, 1987; Flashner, 1989; von Stutterheim, 1991; Bardovi-Harlig, 1995), but this too, may be an artifact of narrative discourse structure, since the foreground of narratives privileges the use of the perfective. Although there was development of some temporal features modal types, stative inventories, passive, perfect, and adverbial repertoires) with greater proficiency, overall there was little evidence for the development of the imperfective. Be and can dominated the stative and modal types; the progressive, passive, and perfect were seldom used, and except for more passives in the higher proficiency argument essays, the narrative text-type promoted their use more than the non-narrative text-types.

The perception and production of second language stress: A cross-linguistic experimental study (Education Papers posted on March 26th, 2013 )

This study investigates the effect of native language L1) stress properties on the second language L2) acquisition of primary word stress in light of two recent typological hierarchical models of stress: the Stress Deafness Model SDM) Peperkamp & Dupoux 2002) and the Stress Typology Model STM) Altmann & Vogel 2002). Since research on the L2 performance of a diverse sample of L1s with respect to both perception and production using the same experimental design is virtually non-existent, advanced learners of English from seven distinct L1 groups Arabic, Chinese, French, Japanese, Korean, Spanish, Turkish), as well as native English speakers participated in perception and production experiments. Novel words of two, three, and four syllables length consisting of only open syllables CV) were used. In the perception experiment, subjects listened to a large number of tokens of various structures and marked the most stressed syllable; in the production experiment, subjects were asked to read aloud tokens from a subset of the structures. The results indicate that, on the one hand, learners with predictable stress in their L1 i.e., Arabic, Turkish, French) had problems perceiving the location of stress but they performed most like the English native speakers in production, who applied a frequency-based common strategy. On the other hand, learners without word-level stress in their L1 i.e., Chinese, Japanese, Korean) or with unpredictable L1 stress Spanish) showed almost perfect perception scores; however, their productions were quite different from the control groups. Thus, it was found that good perception does not necessarily underlie good production and vice versa. While the current findings go contrary to predictions made by the SDM, the STM can explain both the perception as well as the production results. Languages with predictable stress, unpredictable stress, and without stress are included in this hierarchical model with branching parameters. It was found that positive parameter settings impede the perception of L2 stress, while the mere setting of the topmost parameter in the hierarchy i.e., yes/no stress language) and thus experience with stress in the L1 determines the rate of success in production, although L1s with non-predictable stress face further challenges.

Grammar and agency in L2 pragmatic proficiency: Toward an integrated view of L2 pragmatics (Education Papers posted on March 24th, 2013 )

The paper suggests an integrated model of L2 pragmatics that claims that L2 pragmatic competence is grounded in L2 learners’ agency, whereby they employ discursive practices to define and redefine their identities. Grammar is subordinated to the role of tool to express pragmatic messages in an L2. The framework builds on the notion of agency based on poststructuralists’ idea of language practices and a Bakhtinian perspective on language use. It seeks to integrate, or rather reconcile, two major approaches to the notion of L2 pragmatics in the modern SLA theory (Firth and Wagner, 2003). The cognitive approach, inspired by the Chomskyan view of L2 pragmatics as an area of communicative performance rather than competence, is found to lack a way of incorporating possible non-linguistic influences on L2 pragmatics. The other, Social-anthropological, approach, focusing primarily on learners’ individual differences and stemming from Hymesean views developed by Canale and Swain (1980), is seen to pay little attention to the linguistic-system internal dimension of L2 pragmatic ability. To support the model, the proposal reports on a pilot study that shows that participants with similar grammatical competence but different agencies may demonstrate different L2 pragmatic abilities. Inspired by the results of the initial pilot study, the dissertation undertakes a second study, which incorporates concepts from the Social psychology research and builds on authentic linguistic data. It involves highly proficient learners of English, who despite their similar grammatical competence show different levels of L2 pragmatic proficiency. The differential success of the participants is explained through the notion of agency and other related components of the suggested integrated model of L2 pragmatics.

The discursive construction of subject positioning, power, and language ideologies among adult immigrant learners of English (Education Papers posted on March 24th, 2013 )

This critical ethnographic study of adult immigrant learners of English highlights the discursively constructed nature of language learning, power relations, and language ideologies. It draws on varied data gathered over the two-year duration of the project, including video tapes of the participants interacting in their community center ESL classroom, audio-taped interviews with each focus participant, detailed transcripts, the researcher’s written reflections following each weekly ESL class, and outside-of-class observations. The study adopts a Foucauldian view of the microdynamics of power and draws on Davies and Harre’s (1990) positioning theory in considering how individuals’ differing displays of English knowledge in the context of an ESL classroom can position them as good or poor language learners. In taking this approach, this study suggests that language ability ought to be understood as emergent in the moment-by-moment development of interactions, with some options more ratified than others depending on the situated activity, thereby foregrounding the relational aspects of learning as well as the limitations to notions of general linguistic competence among learners. It also considers the possibilities for learner empowerment from a critical pedagogy perspective. Through close analysis of classroom interactions, the study demonstrates some of the paradoxes and tensions that accompany critical pedagogical practices as well as institutional and interactional constraints in bringing about empowerment among adult immigrant learners. Lastly, it examines how language ideologies, particularly those that legitimate the dominant role of English in American contexts, were produced in the mundane interactions of the study’s participants. By framing these beliefs as discursive constructions, the study problematizes the inevitable and seemingly natural status of these “common sense” beliefs. At the same time, it suggests that adult immigrants’ utterances regarding the role of English in their lives are uniquely situated to challenge status quo beliefs, even if only subtly and indirectly, because of the struggles these individuals experience in learning and using the language.

Sociocognitive influences on strategies for using language in English for academic purposes: Two case studies (Education Papers posted on March 24th, 2013 )

This study examines the sociocognitive variables that influence the strategy choices of two international students in academic programs in the United States. The term “sociocognitive” refers to the interaction between an individual and his or her sociocultural context, as defined by Bandura 2001). In this definition, an individual cognitively responds to Social and cultural elements through strategies that are intended to exert some measure of control over his or her environment. This cognitive response manifests in the setting of goals and the implementation of strategies to reach those goals. In the case of international students studying in the United States, the goal is ultimately to obtain a degree, which itself entails the successful integration of the student into an academic program through the acquisition of an appropriate style of English and a certain level of academic literacy. Despite extensive research, there have been few syntheses of cognitive and sociocultural variables in the fields of language learning strategies and academic literacy, resulting in gaps in our understanding of how students succeed in their academic programs. One of the tasks of this study is to synthesize these strands of research by utilizing a sociocognitive framework. The findings consist of case studies of two international students, one in law school, and the other in an MBA program. Cognitive and sociocultural variables are identified and examined through an analysis of syllabi, assigned readings, think-aloud protocols, strategy logs, and interviews. Further analysis by category of the participants cognitive responses to their sociocultural elements indicates that the most consistent influence on their strategy choices was their learning styles. This finding confirms and expands Cohens 2003) hypothesis that strategy use can be predicted by an analysis of task and learning style.

Pronunciation instruction, learner awareness and development (Education Papers posted on March 23rd, 2013 )

This study investigates the growth in phonological awareness and the speech development of 8 adult Mandarin speakers during an 8-week ESL pronunciation course focused on prosody. In addition to documenting instruction during the course, the study further examines participants self-reported exposure to English and independent pronunciation practice. Classroom observation data were gathered using field notes and an activity checklist. Retrospective interview data were collected weekly concerning participants noticing of phonological forms, and participants independent practice and exposure to English. Interview data were analyzed qualitatively to identify learners areas of focused attention and how their attention was employed in applying their new prosodic knowledge. Speech samples were taken before T1), immediately after T2), and 2 months after the course T3). These samples were analyzed linguistically for segments, speech rate, dysfluencies and sentence stress. Holistic ratings by two experienced ESL teachers were used to evaluate intonation. The course centered on intonation and stress. Most activities were teacher-centred, listen and repeat exercises, with a focus on individual production. Participants reported more awareness of the need to both stress and reduce words to achieve rhythm, the need to link words, and to employ a wider range of intonation. Participants also reported that they had been unaware of how syllables are stressed, how phrasing is indicated by pitch changes and how gestures are culturally based. Participants demonstrated individual attentional orientations and revealed different levels of awareness: noticing, reporting the rule, and reporting use of the rule in context. Linguistic analysis showed little speech change across time for the group as a whole. Intonation ratings revealed a slight positive trend, although conclusions are limited by low intonation rater agreement at T2. Five of the eight participants reported improved English comprehension, and it is probable that perception improved before production. Those with more exposure to English tended to perform better than those with less. Results strongly suggest that explicit teaching in conjunction with meta-linguistic discussion raise awareness of phonological form. Overall the findings suggest that prosody is worth teaching, but a limited number of participants in a unique teaching context limit the generalizability of the findings.

The last stages of second language acquisition: Linguistic evidence from academic writing by advanced non-native English speakers (Education Papers posted on March 23rd, 2013 )

Second Language Acquisition SLA) researchers have yet to map the developmental stages language learners go through as they approach the target language. In studies of ESL writing, the term “advanced learner” has been applied indiscriminately to learners ranging from freshman ESL composition to graduate students Bardovi-Harlig and Bofman, 1989; Chaudron and Parker, 1990; Connor and Mayberry, 1996; Hinkel, 1997, 2003). There is a need to examine the advanced stages of SLA in order to refine SLA theories and pedagogical approaches. A corpus of texts written by eleven graduate students in applied linguistics who are non-native-English speakers from several linguistic backgrounds was analyzed to determine the texts lexical, morphological, and syntactic fluency, accuracy, and complexity. A sub-corpus of papers by seven native-English-speaking peers was used for comparison. The texts were sit-down and take-home examinations written in a doctoral program at the end of the first semester and three years later. Surveys and interviews were conducted to supplement the corpus with ethnographic data. This dissertation defines data-based criteria that distinguish four quantitatively and qualitatively distinct developmental stages: the advanced, highly advanced, near-native, and native-like stages. Advanced learners make more frequent and varied errors with articles, prepositions, plural and possessive markers, agreement and anaphors), which can be explained by linguistic transfer. Native-like writers make few errors that can be explained by overgeneralization of conventions from informal English and working memory limitations just like native speakers errors). Throughout the four stages, errors i.e., incorrect forms that reflect lack of linguistic knowledge Corder, 1967)) became less frequent, and more of the incorrect usages appeared to be mistakes occasional slips). This dissertation supports Herschensohns 1999) proposal that SLA is a process of transfer followed by relearning of morpho-syntactic specifications. Syntax was used with the greatest accuracy Bardovi-Harlig and Bofman, 1989), while lexicon especially function words) was the weakest. In addition, length of stay in an English-speaking country and amount of interaction with native speakers were proportional with accuracy. An important pedagogical recommendation is that corpus-assisted) language teaching should continue until the target language is reached.

Second language acquisition of English double object construction by Korean speakers (Education Papers posted on March 22nd, 2013 )

This thesis examines first language L1) transfer and acquisition of form-to-meaning mappings in the adult second language L2) acquisition of English Double Object DO) constructions. The issues are examined using grammaticality judgment data from adult L1-Korean L2-English learners. First, a structural transfer hypothesis is formulated, according to which L1 structural properties undergo transfer, and structural in)comparability between the L1 and L2 is crucial in determining the relative success of L2-acquisition. Second, this thesis investigates how L2-learners acquire form-to-meaning mappings, in particular when the target mappings cannot be acquired via L1-transfer and are not easily deducible from L2 positive input. Study of such poverty of the stimulus cases allows us to directly examine whether, and how, learners recover from negative L1-transfer effects, and can potentially provide evidence for L2-learners access to Universal Grammar UG). This thesis examines the structural properties of Korean and English DO constructions and proposes that goal DOs in these two languages are structurally comparable whereas benefactive DOs are structurally different. This syntactic distinction has a semantic correlate: while goal DOs in both languages and benefactive DOs in English encode a prospective) possession relation, Korean benefactive DOs encode a wider benefactive meaning. These structural similarities and differences between English and Korean DOs are well-suited for testing the structural transfer hypothesis, which predicts that L1-Korean L2-English learners should accept English goal DOs but reject English benefactive DOs. Empirical data from the first experiment support those predictions. Next, this thesis considers whether L2-learners are capable of recovering from negative transfer effects on English benefactive DOs. Results of the second experiment show that L2-learners are able to acquire the target form-to-meaning mapping for English benefactive DOs through emerging sensitivity to semantic constraints. It is concluded that 1) L1-transfer is operative in L2-acquisition at the level of syntax and 2) L2-learners have access to UG-based syntactic and semantic distinctions, which allow them to overcome the poverty of the stimulus problem. These findings furthermore provide support for a novel account of the syntactic and semantic properties of Korean DO constructions.

A meta-analysis investigating the effects of reading on second language vocabulary learning (Education Papers posted on March 22nd, 2013 )

This study uses research synthesis and quantitative meta-analysis approaches to investigate the effect that reading has on second language vocabulary learning. It discusses the procedures of conducting a meta-analysis in the field of applied linguistics. Then the study systematically reports on findings from forty-four unique sample studies that met the inclusion criteria. In addition to the investigation of the link between reading and second language vocabulary learning, the study discusses methodological issues that have made it difficult for second language vocabulary researchers to understand better the role that reading plays in second language vocabulary learning. In the end, the study leads to further research avenues for research synthesis and meta-analysis approaches, and the conceptualization of research investigating the effects of reading on second language vocabulary learning.