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Placement testing and morphosyntactic development in second language learners of English

Spinner, Patti A. (2007) Placement testing and morphosyntactic development in second language learners of English. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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The primary purpose of this dissertation is to discover whether two current proposals for specific indicators of morphosyntactic development can successfully predict the placement of second language learners of English (ESL learners) in an intensive English program. This research is important because most of the placement/proficiency tests that are currently in use do not include a clear, empirically-tested theory of how second language learners (L2 learners) acquire the morphosyntax of the target language, which is one essential component of L2 proficiency. In order to determine which morphosyntactic elements could be included in a new assessment measure, I examined semi-spontaneous oral production data from 48 ESL learners of mixed L1 background at an intensive English program at the University of Pittsburgh. The measures examined and methodology used were based primarily on Young-Scholten, Ijuin, & Vainikka's (2005) Organic Grammar and Pienemann's (2003) Rapid Profile, two proposals that intend to account for L2 learner development. In order to test the proposals of each, I created implicational tables based on the production data. It was found that Organic Grammar could not fully account for the order of emergence of morphosyntactic features in these data. While Rapid Profile made more accurate predictions, the predictions were not useful in distinguishing between learners at intermediate and advanced levels. Despite these problems, it was possible to combine the results from the Organic Grammar and Rapid Profile tables to produce a new table describing the order of emergence of morphosyntactic forms. It is possible that this table can be integrated into current scale measures of placement/proficiency, such as the ACTFL scale. A preliminary proposal for such a combined measure is proposed; however, further empirical research is necessary in order to determine the effectiveness and accuracy of the scale.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Spinner, Patti A.pas66@pitt.eduPAS66
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairJuffs, Alanjuffs@pitt.eduJUFFS
Committee MemberTucker, G.
Committee MemberMasullo, Pascualpascual@pitt.eduPASCUAL
Committee MemberShirai, Yasuhiroyshirai@pitt.eduYSHIRAI
Date: 27 September 2007
Date Type: Completion
Defense Date: 23 July 2007
Approval Date: 27 September 2007
Submission Date: 8 August 2007
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
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: L2 development; language placement tests; language proficiency tests; morphosyntax; second language acquisition
Other ID:, etd-08082007-145517
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2011 19:58
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 13:48


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