Roles of Lexical Aspect and Narrative Structure in Early Tense-Aspect System of L2 English: A New Perspective from Cognitive Linguistics

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Department of English, NTNU


This paper presents a unified cognitive linguistics (CL) account grounded on the iconicity principle (i.e., iconic markedness and iconic proximity) for motivating the L2 asymmetric associations of thegrammatical aspects, respectively, with verbs of different aspectual classes and the narrative structure (i.e., foreground-background distinction). The study, consisting of 44 written narratives by Taiwanese EFL college students at elementary and intermediate levels, suggests that first, the interlanguage aspect system develops from the unmarked usages parameterized with the degree of conceptual fitness between the (un)boundedness of the situations projected by the lexical verbs and the (inner/outer) perspectivization embedded in the grammatical aspects (principle of iconic markedness), and second, learners’ sensitivity to the grounding influence positively correlates with their proficiency, and the connection strength of the grounding influence to the aspectual use is overall weaker than the consideration of conceptual fitness (principle of iconic proximity). Based on the above, a CL-based constructive approach is suggested to provide learners with step-by-step input (mass/count noun → verb-aspect combination → grounding distinction) that is comprehensible enough to motivate the aspectual usages in relation to the (un)boundedness and perspectivization under the intricacy of lexical aspectual class and narrative structure.