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Title:The ability of second language learners to assign tense at the sentence level: A crosslinguistic study
Author(s):Musumeci, Diane Mikolaitis
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):VanPatten, Bill
Department / Program:Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Education, Language and Literature
Language, Linguistics
Abstract:The study investigated which cues in the input are used by classroom second language learners in order to assign tense at the sentence level: lexical items (temporal adverbials), gestures (indicating temporal references), and/or verb morphology. Data are reported for 169 learners of Italian, French, and Spanish at the first and third semester levels of L2 study at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
The subjects were required, upon watching videotaped native-speaker presentations of statements in each of the languages, to indicate whether the action of each statement was past, present or future. Statements were presented: (1) with a lexical item (a temporal adverbial expression) and a gesture (indicating temporal reference) given in addition to the verb morphology; (2) with the lexical item given in addition to the verb morphology; (3) with the gesture given in addition to the verb morphology; and (4) with the verb morphology only to mark the tense. Statistical analysis revealed significant main effects for Language, Semester Level of Study, Tense, and Feature Condition.
Post hoc analyses of the data revealed that early-stage learners use lexical items in order to assign tense, but only until verb morphology becomes a reliable processing cue. Gestures did not have a significant effect. Third semester learners' performance was not affected by any of the variables. Evidence was found for a developmental shift from a lexically-driven processing system (early-stage) to a more morphologically-driven system (later-stage). Examination of the relationship between learners' ability to assign tense on an aural/visual task and their ability to recognize verb morphology on a paper and pencil task showed that scores on the latter were poor indicators of learners' performance on the aural/visual task. In addition, it is suggested that there exists a hierarchical second language processing mechanism in early-stage second language acquisition.
Issue Date:1989
Rights Information:Copyright 1989 Musumeci, Diane Mikolaitis
Date Available in IDEALS:2011-05-07
Identifier in Online Catalog:AAI9010964
OCLC Identifier:(UMI)AAI9010964

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