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Tense-aspect processing in second language learners

Chan, Ho Leung (2012) Tense-aspect processing in second language learners. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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This dissertation provides a language processing perspective on the study of second language acquisition (SLA) of tense and aspect. Of special interest are the universal vis-à-vis language- specific dimensions of temporal and aspectual semantics involved. According to the Aspect Hypothesis (AH, e.g. Andersen & Shirai, 1994), the initial acquisition and subsequent emergence of (perfective) past tense and progressive aspect morphology follow a semantic-driven, universal sequence. The AH appeals to a cognitive-based prototype account (Shirai & Andersen, 1995), and has gained ample empirical support from offline data in the past two decades. Mounting evidence of transfer, however, has begun to emerge in recent psycholinguistic research, suggesting that grammatical aspectual categories such as the English progressive have non-trivial influence on principles of information organization in language comprehension among L2 learners and bilingual speakers (Stutterheim & Carroll, 2006).
This dissertation undertakes a psycholinguistic investigation of L2 learners’ processing of English past and progressive morphology. Participants included native English speakers as well as English L2 learners from Korean, German, and Mandarin Chinese backgrounds, whose L1s differ systematically with respect to past and progressive morphology. This cross-linguistic design enabled a systematic testing of both the prototype and transfer hypotheses in one single study. Three word-by-word self-paced reading experiments examined L2 learners’ automaticity in morphological processing, the universality of tense-aspect prototypes, and aspectual coercion.

Experiment I generated evidence that L2 learners were generally capable of detecting tense- aspect morphosyntactic errors online. Reading time results from Experiment II revealed that L2 learners did not show uniform processing advantages afforded by tense-aspect prototypes. Instead, there exist L1 effects in prototypes, at least from evidence in processing L2 tense-aspect distinctions. Experiment III investigated the processing consequences of aspectual coercion in L2 learners, and results indicated strong L1 influence. The most robust finding across the three experiments is that the L2 learners showed clear L1-based variations in their performance, reflecting a strong tendency for transfer. Notably, these results were obtained after controlling for L2 proficiency and inflected verb form frequencies. A more prominent role of L1 influence is implicated in L2 learners’ representation of tense-aspect prototypes than previously assumed.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Chan, Ho Leunghoc13@pitt.eduHOC13
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairShirai, Yasuhiroyshirai@pitt.eduYSHIRAI
Committee CoChairPerfetti, Charlesperfetti@pitt.eduPERFETTI
Committee MemberJuffs, Alanjuffs@pitt.eduJUFFS
Committee MemberTokowicz, Natashatokowicz@pitt.eduTOKOWICZ
Date: 26 September 2012
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 26 January 2012
Approval Date: 26 September 2012
Submission Date: 22 June 2012
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 205
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Linguistics
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Tense, aspect, L2 acquisition, transfer, prototype
Date Deposited: 26 Sep 2012 23:46
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 13:59

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