Ph.D. - Second Language Acquisition

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    Chinese Sentence Processing by First and Second Language Speakers
    ([Honolulu] : [University of Hawaii at Manoa], [December 2015], 2015-12) Wen, Zhijun
    This dissertation research investigates real-time second language (L2) sentence processing, with a focus on L2 Mandarin Chinese. It seeks to reveal how adult L2 learners (“L2ers”) exploit different sources of information (morphosyntactic, lexical-semantic, and discourse-context) and hence illuminates the issue of whether L2ers are capable of fully specified processing. The research employs two different processing tasks: comprehension-focused self-paced reading (CFSPR) and acceptability-judgment self-paced reading (AJSPR); there are four main studies: one in English comparing native English speakers with L1-Chinese L2ers of English, and three in Chinese comparing native Chinese speakers with learners of Chinese whose native language (L1) is English (or Japanese). The first study assesses whether AJSPR is more sensitive than CFSPR in detecting deep-level processing by examining L1 and L2 processing of English subject-verb number agreement in an AJSPR task in comparison to Wen’s (2007) study employing a CFSPR task. The second study compares L1 and L2 processing of (grammatical vs. ungrammatical) negation–aspect interactions in Chinese to test whether L2ers whose L1 lacks such morphosyntax can ultimately acquire it and use it in online sentence processing. The third study investigates use of lexical-semantic information in Chinese to test whether L2ers, in comparison to Chinese natives, over-depend on lexical-semantic information in sentence processing; this is achieved by comparing L1 and L2 participants’ sensitivity to temporary violations of the selectional restrictions of Chinese transitive verbs. The fourth study examines whether L2ers rely more on discourse-context information in processing Chinese sentences that contain null objects than Chinese natives do. The results of these studies reveal that (a) L2ers are able to access and use the different sources of information (morphosyntactic, lexical-semantic, discourse-context) in online sentence processing as L2 proficiency rises; (b) they do not always over-rely on lexical-semantic or contextual information in L2 sentence processing; (c) they are capable of fully specified processing. The research suggests that L2 processing difficulties are not necessarily indicative of deficient grammatical representations; rather, L2 sentence processing is subject to the influences of task demands, L2 proficiency, and L1 transfer. In addition, the research establishes AJSPR as an appropriate tool for gauging deep-level L2 processing.
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    Pragmatic assessment in L2 interaction : applied conversation analysis for pedagogic intervention
    ([Honolulu] : [University of Hawaii at Manoa], [May 2013], 2013-05) Cheng, Tsui-Ping
    This dissertation uses conversation analysis (CA) to examine English L2 speakers' participation in an innovative multiparty pragmatic assessment activity. In contrast to previous interlanguage pragmatics research, this study not only considers assessment as an interactive activity, but also uses video footage of naturally occurring disagreement sequences collected from real classroom interactions as the material for its pragmatic assessment activity. By taking this novel approach toward the method and material of pragmatic assessment, this study aims to (1) investigate the ways in which L2 speakers calibrate their assessments in interaction, and (2) explore the possibility of applying CA findings to pedagogic intervention in L2 pragmatics. The data for this study comes from six videotaped L2 speakers' small group discussions in an English as a second language instructional context. Using a multimodal perspective to analyze assessment in interaction, this study presents a detailed description of how the participants integrate diverse vocal and visual resources to construct stances in concert with other group members and accomplish assessment as a collaborative activity. Specifically, gaze direction is identified as a constitutive part of the participants' display of affiliation and disaffiliation with assessments. This study also provides an empirical account of how noticing, as a phenomenon registered, invited, and accounted for by the participants, is lodged within the interactional process. Finally, the analysis demonstrates three pedagogical advantages of using authentic disagreement sequences for pragmatic assessment: (1) it provides participants with rich contextual information to coordinate their stances vis-à-vis one another; (2) it affords participants an interactional space to make informed pragmatic decisions; and (3) it sensitizes participants to how disagreement is organized as a multimodal achievement. The findings reported in this study contribute to an understanding of the embodied production of assessments, the consequential displays of noticing in interaction, and the fruitful application of CA to pragmatic instruction. It is hoped that this study both provides an example of the ways language researchers can apply CA to pedagogic intervention and encourages language researchers to further explore this area of L2 studies, thereby expanding the field's understanding of CA's engagement with instructional activities and materials development.
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    The discursive management of emotionality in the L2 research interview
    ([Honolulu] : [University of Hawaii at Manoa], [May 2011], 2011-05) Prior, Matthew Thomas
    This study investigates the ways in which emotions and emotionality are managed as topics and resources in second language (L2) research interviews. A continued challenge for researchers is how to define and operationalize emotions and other putative psychological phenomena. One popular research methodology that treats emotions as the object and product of inquiry is the qualitative interview, where emotions are investigated as initiators, inhibitors, or outcomes of language-related activity. However, a growing criticism of interview research is that by elevating the thematic and dramatic content of the talk we ignore the methodic interactional practices by which the data are produced. Data are drawn from 30 hours of face-to-face interviews with adult immigrants from Vietnam, Cambodia, and the Philippines living in the US and Canada. Using the methodology of conversation analysis, and informed by ethnomethodology and discursive psychology, I examine how emotions are invoked, represented, and made procedurally consequential in interview interaction. Three specific interactional resources are examined: (a) emotion story prefaces used by interviewees to project emotion-implicative stories fitting the interview agenda, (b) interviewer questioning sequences and their function in eliciting interview talk of emotions and emotional experiences, and (c) emotion reformulations and how particular emotion-indexing terms are used to offer, take up, reject, and scale various descriptions. Talk of negative emotions (e.g., anger, sadness, shame) and experiences (e.g., problems, complaints, discrimination) was found to be particularly salient in the data. One explanation is that this is what is cooperatively treated as memorable, tellable, and expected in research interviews and autobiographic talk. This study further demonstrates that a discursive approach to emotions, employing a conversation analytic methodology, offers a systematic and empirical means to analyze, rather than summarize or speculate about emotions and emotional talk. It also allows a careful methodological and analytical critique of our research processes.
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    The effects of frequency, distribution, mode of presentation, and first language on learning an artificial language
    ([Honolulu] : [University of Hawaii at Manoa], [May 2011], 2011-05) Miyata, Munehiko
    This dissertation presents results from a series of experiments investigating adult learning of an artificial language and the effects that input frequency (high vs. low token frequency), frequency distribution (skewed vs. balanced), presentation mode (structured vs. scrambled), and first language (English vs. Japanese) have on such learning. Motivated by cognitive and usage-based accounts of language and learning, the research aims to contribute to theoretical debates concerning the influence of input properties and existing knowledge in language learning. The artificial language used in the experiments is focused on the learning of noun classes modeled on Nilo-Saharan languages. Two artificial noun classes, each with distinct morphological features, were devised based on a semantic contrast between entities that are typically encountered as individuals and those typically encountered as groups, sets, pairs or masses. A total of 150 subjects, college students and young adult native speakers of English and Japanese with no more than limited knowledge of the other language, participated in these experiments. In each experiment, subjects were exposed to words and pictures representing the two noun classes. The learning phase was followed by a testing phase to assess their learning with respect to both trained and previously unseen exemplars of each class. A two-factor factorial analysis of variance design was used to analyze the results. The results show that presentation mode had the largest effect on learning, followed by token frequency and frequency distribution. The results also show a constant effect of L1 knowledge: participants were better at learning morphological features similar to their L1 than dissimilar ones. These findings contribute new knowledge to our understanding of the learning of functional morphology--which has been viewed as a major theoretical challenge by researchers working within such diverse perspectives as the processing instructional paradigm and generative SLA--and leads to pedagogical implications that may benefit learners.
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    The implementation of genre-based tasks in foreign language writing instruction : a longitudinal study of writers' rhetorical awareness, writing quality, and lexicogrammatical choices
    ([Honolulu] : [University of Hawaii at Manoa], [August 2012], 2012-08) Yasuda, Sachiko
    The present study aimed to document the ontogenetic development of Japanese EFL writers' rhetorical awareness, writing performances, and their lexicogrammatical choices as they engaged in carefully designed genre-based tasks over one academic year. The two-semester sequence of writing courses were designed based on the Systemic Functional Linguistic (SFL) perspective on genre learning (Martin & Rose, 2008). Instruction also integrated the genres into tasks (Byrnes, 2006) with the guidance from task-based language teaching (TBLT) principles (Norris, 2009). A total of 30 students divided into two different proficiency levels (15 in a higher proficiency group and 15 in a lower proficiency group) participated in the study. A triangulated inquiry was employed by gathering naturalistic data from intact classes: questionnaires, interviews, free writing, teacher-researcher field notes, and pre-instructional and post-instructional writing samples produced by the students at the two different periods of each semester. Findings showed that as the students engaged in the SFL-informed genre tasks, their concerns shifted to more genre-specific rhetorical issues that could accommodate the needs of the given context. The comparisons of their pre-and post-instructional writing tasks showed that enhanced rhetorical awareness affected their actual genre production in terms of their meaning-making language choices. However, proficiency effects were markedly observed in terms of how and to what degree they were able to elaborate grammatically sophisticated expressions to realize a genre. The results suggest that improved genre awareness might enable students to expand their language choices to some extent in a way that allows them to accommodate the genre demands, although their limited language proficiency might impede the expansion of meaning-making resources at a productive level. Explaining this phenomenon based on SFL theory, it can be argued that the ability to use more incongruent and metaphorical grammatical resources may appear at a later stage of a language learning process. Some pedagogical implications are discussed in terms of the interface between a genre-based approach to writing instructions and a task-based approach to language learning.