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Title:The count/mass distinction in native and non-native grammar
Author(s):Choi, Sea Hee
Director of Research:Ionin, Tania
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Ionin, Tania
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Yoon, James; Lasersohn, Peter; Jegerski, Jill
Department / Program:Linguistics
Discipline:Linguistics
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Degree:Ph.D.
Genre:Dissertation
Subject(s):The count/mass distinction, Korean, Mandarin Chinese, English, Second language acquisition, atomicity, noun interpretation, universal semantics, cognitive object/substance distinction
Abstract:This dissertation investigates whether the interpretation of different types of nouns is affected by count/mass morphosyntax and whether second language (L2) learners are affected by first language (L1) transfer from their native language or are instead affected by semantic universals in L2 acquisition of the count/mass distinction. Furthermore, this dissertation also examines how similarly/differently L2-learners behave in online and offline tasks regarding the acquisition of the count/mass morphosyntax in English. As current literature does not provide a conclusive answer to these questions, three experiments were conducted to address this gap. Experiment 1 investigates whether L2-learners transfer the properties of plural marking from their native language to their L2 regarding object-mass nouns. Native speakers (NSs) of English, L1-Korean L2-English learners, and L1-Mandarin L2-English learners were compared. The results show no transfer effects, but L2-learners’ performances were affected by semantic universals (atomicity). Furthermore, it was also found that L2-learners show the exact same patterns in online and offline tasks, suggesting that L2-learners’ knowledge about how atomicity relates to the count/mass distinction (specifically, the mapping between plural marking and atomicity) is present at both explicit and implicit levels. Experiments 2a, 2b, and 2c examine whether the interpretation of different nouns is affected by the count/mass morphosyntax or universality in native and non-native grammar. In this set of experiments, NSs of English, Korean, and Mandarin Chinese and L1-Korean L2-English learners and L1-Mandarin L2-English learners were tested and compared. The results indicate that the interpretation of different types of nouns were affected by semantic universals (atomicity) without L1-transfer effects from the count/mass morphosyntax of their L1s. Experiments 3a and 3b investigate whether L2-learners transfer the properties of plural marking from their native language to their L2 with respect to flexible nouns. In these two experiments, English NSs, L1-Korean L2-English learners, and L1-Mandarin L2-English learners were compared. The results show that L2-learners, though not affected by L1-transfer, were affected by semantic universals (atomicity) in their use of flexible nouns. Furthermore, unlike in Experiment 1, it was found that L2-learners performed better in the offline task than in the online task, suggesting that L2-learners’ knowledge about how atomicity relates to the count/mass distinction is better at the explicit level than the implicit level. A possible reason for such differences in the results between Experiment 1 and Experiments 3a and 3b is that interpretation trumps morphosyntax with object-mass nouns while the judgments of flexible nouns are flexible. Thus, it is possible that flexible judgments on flexible nouns are what led learners to be successful on the GJT to some extent. Taken together, this dissertation shows that universality (atomicity), and not L1-transfer, plays a role in the interpretation of different types of nouns and in the L2-acquisition of the count/mass distinction in English. This dissertation also demonstrates that L2-learners’ knowledge at explicit and implicit levels are separate with L2-learners having different explicit and implicit knowledge depending on noun type.
Issue Date:2021-04-20
Type:Thesis
URI:http://hdl.handle.net/2142/110823
Rights Information:Copyright 2021 Sea Hee Choi
Date Available in IDEALS:2021-09-17
Date Deposited:2021-05


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