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Acquisition of the ArticleSemantics by Child and AdultL2-English Learners Tania Ionin, María Luisa Zubizarreta, Vadim Philippov (2009)
INTRODUCTIONQuestion:Do children and adults acquire a secondlanguage in the same way?
MAIN FOCUSTRADITIONALLY ULTIMATE ATTAINMENT •L2 learners that started learning the L2 during childhood (early learners) •L2 learners that started learning the L2 as adults (late learners) Conslusions so far: consensus •Early learners outperform the late learners on grammaticality judgement tasks in the L2 Conslusions so far: disagreement •The reason/explanation for this difference •Biological •Social •Input
MORE RECENTLY MAIN FOCUS PROCESSING •¿is the processing of an L2 simmilar in children and adults? •Do both, children and adults, learners of an L2 have access to UG? Conclusions so far (generativist) •Children – yes GU •Adults– debatable •Schwartz (1992, 2002, 2004) – while the L1 is kept constant, the adults’ acquisition process is simmilar to that of children – UG constrained
Articles, definiteness and specificity Aside from definitness, articles also encode specificity. In English, specificity is not morphologically marked. In Samoan, specific and non specific objects are marked with two different articles.
ENGLISH vs. SAMOAN
Some definitions Definiteness: a presupposition of uniqueness The speaker assumes that the hearer shares the presuposition of the existence of a unique individual in the set denoted by the NP. Specificity: a speaker’s intent to refer The speaker intends to refer to a unique individual in the set denoted by the NP and considers this individual to possess some noteworthy property.
CLASSIFICATION & EXAMPLES [+definfinite, + specific] I want to talk to the winner of this race – she is a good friend of mine.[+definite, -specific] I want to talk to the winner of this race – whoever that happens to be.[-definite, +specific] Professor Robertson is meeting with a student from her class – my best friend Alice.[-definite, -specific] Professor Robertson is meeting with a student from her class – I don’t know which one.
ACQUISITION OF ARTICLES BY CHILDRENAND ADULTS (previous studies) ADULTS L2 learners of English overuse “a” with non-specific definites [+definite, –specific] L2 learners of English over use “the” in indefinite and specific contexts [- definite, +specific] CHILDREN Child L2 learners of English overuse “the” in indefinite, specific contexts (like the adults) Chlid L2 learners of English do not overuse “a” with non-specific definites (unlinke the adults)
Possible Explanations Children are egocentric and disregard the knowlede of the listener.Psychological It is difficult for children to separate the listeners’ assumptions by those of the speaker.Linguistic The association of “the” with specificity.
Current studyMOTIVATION:Explain the difference between children and adultsDetermine which explanation best explains the(mis)use of articles.
Participants26 adults, L1 Russina, L2 English58 children (10-12 yrs old) L1 Russian, L2 EnglishControl group L1 English (adults and children)
METHODOLOGYWRITTEN ELICITATION 60 short dialogues designed to elicit articlesCLOZE TEST (only for adult L2 English learners)
RESULTSL1 ENGLISH High scores Children made more mistakes (compared to the adults) The few mistakes children made were in nonspecific indefinitesL2 ENGLISH The two groups are statistically comparable Clear influence of specificity (both groups) Adults: influence of specificity is evident both, in definite contexts as well as indefinite contexts. Children: influence of specificity is much more evident in indefinite contexts than it is in definite ones
CONCLUSIONQUESTION: Do children and adults of an article-less L1 acquire English articles in the same way?ANSWER:YES and NO
Explicit and implicit knowledge Learners have both, explicit and implicit knowledge about article use. Implicit: takes the form of access to semantic universals Explicit: takes the form of explicit strategy – overextends the semantic distinction to dfinites & indefinites. EVIDENCE: performance on implicit tasks and differences among adult learners in different studies. Ionin (2004) an implicit task for L1 Russians and L1 Korean learners of L2 English: written narrative task (did not explicitly target articles) – targeted meaning, rather than form and did not encourage conscious awareness of linguistic rules – implicit task article ellicitation task – explicit task