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LINGUIST List 16.1159

Tue Apr 12 2005

Diss: Lang Acquisition: Moore: 'Articles and Proper ...'

Editor for this issue: Takako Matsui <takolinguistlist.org>

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        1.    Julia Moore, Articles and Proper Names in L2 English

Message 1: Articles and Proper Names in L2 English
Date: 11-Apr-2005
From: Julia Moore <jmmnorthwestern.edu>
Subject: Articles and Proper Names in L2 English

Institution: Northwestern University
Program: Department of Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2004

Author: Julia Margaret Moore

Dissertation Title: Articles and Proper Names in L2 English

Linguistic Field(s): Language Acquisition

Subject Language(s): English (ENG)

Dissertation Director:
Gregory Ward

Dissertation Abstract:

It is well known that learners of English as a second language have
difficulty using articles, especially if their first language does not
contain an article system of its own (Kharma 1981, Huebner 1983a. 1983b,
1985, Parrish 1987, Tarone 1985, Aaronson & Ferres 1987, Master 1987,
Tarone & Parrish 1988, Johnson & Newport 1989, Thomas 1989, Yoon 1993,
Young, 1996, Murphy, 1997, Butler, 1999, Robertson, 2000, Ionin & Wexler,
2002, Ionin 2003). However, these studies have only analyzed article
accuracy with common nouns; there has been no systematic investigation into
the use of articles with proper names in English by nonnative speakers.

Proper names present an interesting challenge to second language learners.
Both common nouns and proper names appear with articles in English.
However, the distribution of articles is not the same across the two
classes. With common nouns, the use of the definite, indefinite and zero
articles conveys information about the pragmatic definiteness of the
referent of the NP in which the articles appear. The use of articles with
proper names, on the other hand, is non-contrastive; certain classes of
proper names take the definite article in all contexts, while others appear
bare in all contexts.

I use experimental and semi-naturalistic data from 20 adult speakers of
Mandarin who are learning English as a second language to investigate the
use of articles with proper names in L2 English. I argue that nonnative
speakers of English whose first language lacks articles show significantly
lower levels of accuracy with proper names than with common nouns. I also
claim that nonnative speakers are sensitive to the morphosyntactic
structure of proper names, and that this structure may influence their
choice of articles with certain classes of referents. I also present
evidence that the current methods of evaluating the speech of nonnative
speakers for article accuracy potentially eliminate a large proportion of
article contexts from analysis, and that this exclusion of data can impact
the calculation of accuracy in article production.

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