Linguistics and English Language

Bilingualism reading group

Speaker: Professor Dalila Ayoun (University of Arizona)

Title: Back to basics: refocusing on the input in the L2 acquisition of French morpho-syntax

Abstract: When designing an empirical study in second language (L2) acquisition, researchers carefully consider the elicitation tasks and stimuli, data analysis, the setting and the participants. We also make sure that our study is firmly grounded in current linguistic theory.

However, we tend to overlook a crucial element in the L2 learners’ experience: the input to which they are exposed, be it in instructed or naturalistic settings. We make intelligent guesses, sometimes assumptions, that a given linguistic target is part of their input because of its frequency, saliency or simply because it is included the textbooks used in foreign language classes.

So, although we have long been aware of the importance of the input (e.g. Gass 1991, 2013; Piske & Young-Scholten 2009) as recently reiterated for empirical research from a generative perspective as well (e.g. Slabakova, Teal & Liskin-Gasparro, 2014; Rankin & Unsworth, 2016), it is all too often missing from the background information available about the L2 learners used as participants in any given study. We rarely know what they were exposed to prior to completing elicitation tasks which raises a serious question: how can we claim that L2 learners are (un)successful at acquiring a given feature in the absence of relevant information related to their input?

We present a longitudinal study with a pre-test, repeated exposure and testing, delayed post-test design to investigate the L2 acquisition of French morpho-syntax (i.e., tense, aspect, indicative-subjunctive) by Anglophone instructed learners (n=16) enrolled in a Film and Fiction college class. French native speakers (n=16) were used as a control group. We will describe the input the participants received and how the instructor/researcher carefully controlled it in order to probe the impact it may have on their performance as measured by cloze tests. Unfortunately, the findings suggest that the input to which the participants were exposed in a controlled and repeated manner did not lead to a better performance compared to previous, similar studies (e.g. Ayoun 2013, 2014; McManus & Mitchell, 2015). Possible task effects and methodological implications are discussed.

References:

  • Ayoun, D. (2013). The Second Language Acquisition of French Tense, Aspect, Mood and Modality. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
  • Ayoun, D. (2014). The acquisition of future temporality by L2 French learners. Journal of French Language Studies 24, 181-202.
  • Gass, S. (1997). Input, Interaction and the Second Language Learner. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
  • Gass, S. (2013). Input, Interaction and the Second Language Learner. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
  • McManus, K. and Mitchell, R. (2015). Subjunctive use and development in L2 French: a longitudinal study. Language, Interaction and Acquisition 6 (1), 42-73.
  • Piske, T. and Young-Scholten, M. (Eds) (2009). Input Matters in SLA. Bristol: Multilingual Matters.
  • Rankin, T. and Unsworth, S. (2016). Beyond poverty: engaging with input in generative SLA. Second Language Research 32 (4), 563-572.
  • Slabakova, R., Teal, T.L. and Liskin-Gasparro, J. (2014). We have moved on: current concepts and positions in generative SLA. Applied Linguistics 35 (5), 601-606.

Contact

Please contact Lihua Xia or Martha Robinson to find out specific dates for this semester and/or to be added on the mailing list.

Lihua Xia

Martha Robinson

 

May 15 2018 -

Bilingualism reading group

2018-05-15: Back to basics: refocusing on the input in the L2 acquisition of French morpho-syntax

Room S38, Psychology Building, 7 George Square, Edinburgh, EH8 9JZ