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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Representation and Acquisition of Kind Reference in L2 English
by Koylu, Yilmaz, Ph.D., Indiana University, 2019, 276; 22621945
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation investigates the acquisition of sentences that contain kind-referring expressions such as The dodo is extinct. Such statements clearly pose a learnability problem in second language acquisition of English since they are seldom, if ever, taught explicitly. Neither are such expressions plentiful in the input to guide learners to use correct nominal morphosyntax and articles in English. The objective of this dissertation is threefold: (a) to investigate whether Arabic, Chinese, and Turkish L2 learners’ use and understanding of nominals and articles to express kind reference in English is affected by the properties, particularly the distribution of articles and number marking, of their L1; (b) to research the developmental trajectory and the effect of L2 proficiency in acquiring kind reference in L2 English; and (c) to study whether acquiring features represented overtly in an L1 and mapping them onto those encoded covertly in a target language presents a greater difficulty than acquiring features in the opposite direction.

I propose a novel, feature-based theory of kind reference linked to a formal semantics that articulates what features are responsible for kind reference and where they are encoded. My theory is in line with the Borer-Chomsky Conjecture (Baker, 2008), according to which crosslinguistic parametric variation is attributable to differences in the features of functional heads. I apply the Borer-Chomsky Conjecture to the nominal domain and maintain that crosslinguistic variation in the nominal domain is due to the functional projections and features encoded on them.

59 L2 learners of English with Arabic (n=15), Chinese (n=22), and Turkish (n=22) L1 backgrounds, and a control group of 24 native English speakers participated in the study. The results from a 48-item Fill in the Gaps Task and a 64-item Acceptability Judgment Task demonstrated that L2 learners were generally more successful in their production and acceptability judgments of nominals for kind reference when the morphosyntactic manifestation of kind reference in the target language was similar to that in the L1. The results also indicated that a higher proficiency in L2 English correlated with higher success in production and acceptability judgments of kind reference.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Sprouse, Rex A, Grano, Thomas A
Commitee: Stringer, David, Kitagawa, Yoshihisa
School: Indiana University
Department: Linguistics
School Location: United States -- Indiana
Source: DAI-A 81/4(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Linguistics
Keywords: Arabic, Chinese, English, genericity, kind reference, L2 acquisition, Turkish
Publication Number: 22621945
ISBN: 9781687938480
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