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Syntacticization of Topic in Japanese and Mandarin Students' English: A Test of Rutherford's Model

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Title: Syntacticization of Topic in Japanese and Mandarin Students' English: A Test of Rutherford's Model
Authors: Duff, Patricia Ann
Keywords: syntactics
japanese learners
mandarin learners
esl
rutherford and model
show 1 morel2 transfer
show less
Issue Date: 1985
Abstract: Rutherford (1983) drafted a two-part model to account for the syntacticization of Topic in the English of Japanese and Mandarin learners. For Japanese, he charted the acquisition of English existential constructions with there out of earlier topicalized locative expressions. He characterized Mandarin learners development in terms of the evolution of Subjects from earlier existentials and Topic-Comment constructions.
Implicit in Rutherford’s model are assumptions concerning (1) the role of transfer in second language acquisition; (2) typological distinctions between English, Japanese, and Mandarin based on the roles of Topic and Subject; and (3) the naturalness of the developmental shift from Topic Prominence to Subject Prominence. This theoretical background was reviewed to provide rationale for Rutherford’s claims and motivation for the hypotheses tested in the present study.
Written compositions of 105 Japanese (J) and 105 Mandarin (M) learners, whose proficiency ranged from TOEFL 450-599, were examined. Analysis of variance was used to determine the effect of the independent variables of first language and proficiency on the dependent variable of syntacticization of Topic.
In general Rutherford's model was not supported by statistically significant results, although the data revealed trends in the predicted direction for most measures. The study did, however, provide statistical support for differences between language groups in the production of passives (J > M), Subject-verb agreement (J > M), PRO-drop (M > J), and serial verbs (M > J); proficiency did not have a significant main effect in all of these cases though.
The results could be explained, in part by typological differences between Japanese and Mandarin. However, it was noted that the research questions might be addressed more satisfactorily by conducting further studies with learners at lower levels of proficiency, and by examining oral production data, in addition to written data.
Rutherford (1983) drafted a two-part model to account for the syntacticization of Topic in the English of Japanese and Mandarin learners. For Japanese, he charted the acquisition of English existential constructions with there out of earlier topicalized locative expressions. He characterized Mandarin learners development in terms of the evolution of Subjects from earlier existentials and Topic-Comment constructions.
Implicit in Rutherford’s model are assumptions concerning (1) the role of transfer in second language acquisition; (2) typological distinctions between English, Japanese, and Mandarin based on the roles of Topic and Subject; and (3) the naturalness of the developmental shift from Topic Prominence to Subject Prominence. This theoretical background was reviewed to provide rationale for Rutherford’s claims and motivation for the hypotheses tested in the present study.
Written compositions of 105 Japanese (J) and 105 Mandarin (M) learners, whose proficiency ranged from TOEFL 450-599, were examined. Analysis of variance was used to determine the effect of the independent variables of first language and proficiency on the dependent variable of syntacticization of Topic.
In general Rutherford's model was not supported by statistically significant results, although the data revealed trends in the predicted direction for most measures. The study did, however, provide statistical support for differences between language groups in the production of passives (J > M), Subject-verb agreement (J > M), PRO-drop (M > J), and serial verbs (M > J); proficiency did not have a significant main effect in all of these cases though.
The results could be explained, in part by typological differences between Japanese and Mandarin. However, it was noted that the research questions might be addressed more satisfactorily by conducting further studies with learners at lower levels of proficiency, and by examining oral production data, in addition to written data.
Pages/Duration: 202 pages
URI/DOI: http://hdl.handle.net/10125/37662
Appears in Collections:Occasional Papers



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