Exploration of a way to teach WA and GA in L2 Japanese with the notion of identifiability

Hata, Keiko
Kanno, Kazue
East Asian Language & Literature
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The thesis examines the effect of the instruction using the notion of identifiability (e.g., Hasegawa 2015, Iwasaki 1987) to teach the Japanese particles, WA and GA, especially, the functional differences in discourse between these particles. The particles, WA and GA, are introduced in early chapters of a beginning textbook in L2 Japanese, and yet the distinction between these particles in discourse is a challenge to even second language learners (L2ers) who are at an advanced level (e.g., Koguchi 2017, Sakamoto et al. 1995, Takanashi et al. 2017, Yagi 1996). Whereas many previous studies on the acquisition order of particles (or accuracy order) report that L2ers are able to use WA in a target-like manner at the early phase of their study (e.g., Doi & Yoshioka 1987, 1990, Sakamoto 1993, Yagi 1992, 1996, 2000), learner strategies for the use of the respective particles and for the selection between the particles have been detected (e.g., Koguchi 2017) and the early acquisition of WA has been questioned. In addition, Laleko & Polinsky (2016) see that factors of the difficulty in the use of WA and GA stem from processing difficulty. The preliminary study of this thesis examines whether learners of Japanese whose first language is English (L2ers) use the animacy of a noun phrase in the subject position and/or predicate types of a given sentence as cues to choose between WA and GA. This study also investigates whether the difficulty in the use of these particles by this population can be explained by the Contextual Embedding Hypothesis (e.g., Laleko & Polinsky 2016). The data were collected with a multiple-choice questionnaire. Results show that these L2ers likely rely on the animacy type and the predicate type for their particle choice. Also, the cause of difficulty is identified as processing difficulty due to the memory load required to connect ongoing discourse with prior discourse. The current study examines whether the instruction with the notion of identifiability helps L2ers to reduce their reliance on the animacy type and predicate type as cues to determine between WA and GA. Participants were provided instruction of WA as an identifiable marker and GA as an unidentifiable marker, with some exercises (i.e., categorization task and fill-in-blanks task). The instructional effect was measured by the gain scores in the post-test score. Results indicate that there was a positive effect on GA, but not so much on WA. One of the possible explanations for these outcomes is that the notion of identifiability helps L2ers to reduce their reliance on their learner strategies, especially for choosing WA; consequently, they learn to choose GA more frequently after the instruction. Another potential explanation is that the instruction is effective for those who are still in process of acquiring the particles.
Foreign language education, Discourse processing, Identifiability, Japanese particles, Learner strategies, Second language acquisition
149 pages
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