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The acquisition of tense and agreement by early child second language learners

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Title: The acquisition of tense and agreement by early child second language learners
Author(s): Li, Ming-Ching
Director of Research: Montrul, Silvina
Doctoral Committee Chair(s): McCarthey, Sarah
Doctoral Committee Member(s): Montrul, Silvina; Christianson, Kiel; Golato, Peter
Department / Program: Curriculum and Instruction
Discipline: Elementary Education
Degree Granting Institution: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Degree: Ph.D.
Genre: Dissertation
Subject(s): tense and agreement verb inflections child L2 learners
Abstract: This longitudinal study examines the acquisition of tense and agreement morphology by child L2 learners in an early stage of language acquisition. The objectives of this study are twofold. The first is to observe the development of verb inflections and syntactic competence over time from an early stage by Chinese child L2 learners of English. The second is to determine the similarities and differences in the acquisition of verb inflections by comparing child L2 learners of this study with child L1 and adult L2 learners from the literature in this field. Participants included six Chinese-L1 English-L2 children between the ages of 7 and 9, with a length of residence in the United States between four and six months. Data were collected regularly over a period of seven months. Tasks include a conversation with the investigator on general topics, and an elicitation task via picture description. Speech production samples were audio-recorded and later transcribed to analyze the use of verb inflections: the third-person singular –s, regular past form –ed, copula be, and auxiliary be, and the use of related syntactic properties: the use of overt subjects, and the case of subject pronouns. Based on previous research, the study adopts the Separation Hypothesis, claiming that abstract properties can be present in the syntactic representation in the absence of overt morphology, and the acquisition of syntax triggers the acquisition of morphology. Results demonstrated the early acquisition of syntactic properties, the use of overt subjects and the nominative case for the subject pronouns, while conversely, verb inflections were largely omitted. This suggests that the functional category [Infl] is already in place in the L2 initial state and that syntax acts as a trigger for the acquisition of overt morphology. The Separation Hypothesis is consequently supported.
Issue Date: 2012-09-18
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2142/34423
Rights Information: Copyright 2012 Ming-Ching Li
Date Available in IDEALS: 2012-09-18
Date Deposited: 2012-08
 

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