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Title:The Acquisition of English Sentential Complementation by Adult Speakers of Finnish
Author(s):Schwarte, Barbara Sue
Department / Program:Linguistics
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Language, Linguistics
Abstract:The study reported on here was an investigation into the acquisition of English sentential complementation by adult native speakers of Finnish. A written test consisting of six production tasks and a small comprehension section was administered to forty-three Finnish students studying English at the University of Jyvaskyla, Finland. The production tasks covered nineteen aspects of complementation, which were classified into thirteen subcategorization categories and six syntactic categories. There were three administrations of the test over a nine-month period.
The analysis of the data consisted of two parts. The first part was a cross-sectional analysis to determine the invariant hierarchy of difficulty for the nineteen complement categories. To determine the hierarchy of difficulty, the ordering-theoretic method developed by Bart and Krus (1973) was utilized. The cross-sectional hierarchy of difficulty determined for the Finnish speakers in this study was then compared with the cross-sectional hierarchy of difficulty determined for Puerto Rican Spanish speakers in a study by Anderson (1976).
The second part of the study looked at the students' use of complement structures over a nine-month period. Longitudinal data were compiled for twenty-three of the students. For these twenty-three students, individual rankings of the nineteen categories, based upon the percentage correct, were made for each testing. The rankings obtained on each testing for a student were then compared with each other to determine if there was much variation in a student's rankings from one testing to the next. An analysis was also made to determine if there was much variation when one student's longitudinal ranking was compared with another student's longitudinal ranking. Finally, the individual longitudinal rankings were compared with the cross-sectionally-derived hierarchy of difficulty to determine if the individual longitudinal rankings corresponded with the cross-sectionally-derived hierarchy of difficulty.
The most important findings of this study were (1)the existence of variation in the second language acquisition process and (2)the fact that such variation was obscured by the cross-sectional group data. It was found that over time there was a great deal of variation in the individual rankings; that is, the rankings for a student changed from one testing to the next. Not only was there variation over time for individual rankings, but there was also variation when one student's individual longitudinal ranking was compared with the other students' individual longitudinal rankings. Thus, the language learning process seems to be very individualistic.
Such findings have methodological implications for second language acquisition research because they question the current trend of equating group rankings with individual rankings and of equating cross-sectional rankings with longitudinal rankings. A further implication of this study is that current theories of second language acquisition must account for variation. The notion that the language acquisition process be thought of as a continuum has merit because of its ability to account for the dynamic aspect of language learning.
Issue Date:1981
Description:230 p.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1981.
Other Identifier(s):(UMI)AAI8114479
Date Available in IDEALS:2014-12-13
Date Deposited:1981

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