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Testing Processability Theory in L2 Spanish: Can Readiness or Markedness Predict Development?

BONILLA, CARRIE (2012) Testing Processability Theory in L2 Spanish: Can Readiness or Markedness Predict Development? Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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The goal of this dissertation is to test the five stages of Processability Theory (PT) for
second language (L2) learners of Spanish and investigate how instruction can facilitate the
development through the stages. PT details five fixed stages in the acquisition of L2
morphosyntax based on principles of speech processing (Levelt, 1989) and modeled on Lexical-
Functional Grammar (LFG) (Kaplan & Bresnan, 1982; Bresnan, 2001). In addition, two models
that predict how instruction can affect staged language development are tested: the Teachability
Hypothesis (Pienemann, 1984, 1989), which says that instruction will only be effective if aimed
at the next developmental stage and Projection Model (Zobl, 1983, 1985), which claims that
instruction on more marked items can project to less marked, related items.
In Study 1, the specific stages for L2 Spanish morphology and syntax were proposed and
tested on a cross-sectional corpus of conversational data by learners (n=21) with L1 English.
Implicational scaling confirmed the five stages for the syntax and morphology with 100%
scalability. Syntax was also found to emerge before morphology at all five stages.
Studies 2 and 3 tested the effect of instruction aimed at Stages 3, 4 and 5 for beginning
(first and second semester) learners of Spanish (N=57). Learners’ oral production and stage
gains were measured between a pre-test, a post-test two days after instruction, and a delayed
post-test three weeks later. Learners’ production of the target structures increased after
instruction on the next, next + 1 or next + 2 stages, while the control groups made no significant
changes. These results present counter-evidence to the prediction of the Teachability Hypothesis
that instruction only on the next stage can aid learners to advance to subsequent developmental
stages. Overall, the results offer further cross-linguistic support for the PT hierarchy, while
refuting one of its corollaries, the Teachability Hypothesis.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairSHIRAI, YASUHIROyshirai@pitt.eduYSHIRAI
Committee MemberJUFFS, ALANjuffs@pitt.eduJUFFS
Committee MemberORTEGA-LLEBARIA, MARTAMAO61@pitt.eduMAO61
Committee MemberACHUGAR,
Date: 12 June 2012
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 28 March 2012
Approval Date: 12 June 2012
Submission Date: 29 March 2012
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 289
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Hispanic Linguistics
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: second language acquisition, morphology, Spanish as a second language, Processability Theory, syntax
Date Deposited: 12 Jun 2012 20:14
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 13:57


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