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Second Language Acquisition of English Telicity-Related Constructions
Dr. Chun-yin Doris Chen
Harvey Hsin-chang Ho
second language acquisition
double object construction
The present study aims to probe into the second language acquisition of three telicity-related constructions in English, viz. resultative constructions, verb-particle constructions, and dative/double object constructions. To circumvent potential methodological effects, this study drew on a comprehension task, i.e. a grammaticality judgment task, and a production task, i.e. a free translation task, to garner pertinent data. The issues addressed included construction effects, the relationships of the three constructions, property effects, group effects, and task effects. The subjects of this study consisted of 104 Chinese-speaking senior high school students, and they were further divided into three groups according to their English proficiency levels, i.e. the high-level group, the mid-level group, and the low-level group. The overall results indicated that the three constructions were significantly correlated (p<.01** throughout). The following acquisition sequence was found across different properties, tasks, and L2 proficiency levels: datives/double objects were followed by verb-particles, which in turn preceded resultatives. The regression analysis further showed a hierarchically predictive relationship of the three constructions: the success in the acquisition of resultatives well predicted the successful acquisition of the other two constructions, and verb-particles were a significant predictor ofdatives/double objects as well. When all the test properties were compared, it was found that construction effects consistently overrode property effects on the L2 acquisition. In the within-construction analysis, it was also shown that properties played a marginal role in influencing the L2 acquisition of the constructions in most cases. Moreover, the variable of L2 proficiency was substantiated; the subjects’ performance improved with the increase in their proficiency levels. With respect to methodological effects, the subjects consistently performed better on the comprehension task than the production task, implying that comprehension might precede production in acquisition. Finally, the analysis of untargeted production data also confirmed the observed relationships of the constructions. This study suggests that different degrees of L2 complexity, L1 transfer, and L2 inputs may contribute to the hierarchical acquisition order of the three telicity-related constructions.
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