Prepositions are hard to learn – even for the advanced language student (Celce- Murcia & Larson-Freeman, 1999). One reason these lexical items are particularly troublesome is that their meanings vary substantially across languages (Feist, 2008a; Levinson & Meira, 2003). In addition, prepositional meanings are complex, with their uses influenced by geometric, functional, and physical aspects of the scenes they describe (Coventry & Garrod, 2004; Feist 2000, 2008a; Vandeloise, 1991). In light of this complexity, the purpose of this study was to figure out what advanced ESL students understand about English prepositional meanings. In my first experiment, advanced ESL learners from ten different language backgrounds studying at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette were asked to look at images and choose the best fit preposition to describe each spatial scene (created by Feist, 2000). Students were given a choice of in or on to best describe spatial scenes which varied along geometric, functional, and physical parameters. Their responses were then analyzed to determine which factors influenced ESL learners’ prepositional meanings. In addition, the pattern of influences on ESL learners’ use of English prepositions was compared to the influence previously observed in native English speakers (Feist , 2000) to determine how the ESL students’ prepositional meanings compared to those of native English speakers. This may help elucidate whether even advanced nonnative speakers are missing subtle influences in prepositional semantics or if they possess a complex understanding that is similar to native speakers. My second study, which was formed out of the discussion of the first, explored one potential strategy used by advanced nonnative speakers in prepositional selection. How do students choose one preposition over another? Understanding what students know about in and on can help researchers develop pedagogical practices which guide learners on a path toward more native-like understanding of prepositional semantics.
|Commitee:||Honegger, Mark, Rice, Claiborne|
|School:||University of Louisiana at Lafayette|
|School Location:||United States -- Louisiana|
|Source:||MAI 58/05M(E), Masters Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||Linguistics, English as a Second Language, Cognitive psychology|
|Keywords:||Cognitive linguistics, ESL, Lexical semantics, Prepositions, Semantics, Spatial language|
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