Date: Wed, 8 Jun 2005 14:35:54 -0400 From: Bonnie Fonseca-Greber Subject: Focus on French as a Foreign Language: Multidisciplinary Approaches
EDITOR: Dewaele, Jean-Marc TITLE: Focus on French as a Foreign Language SUBTITLE: Multidisciplinary Approaches PUBLISHER: Multilingual Matters YEAR: 2005
Bonnibeth B. Fonseca-Greber, Department of Romance Languages & School of Teaching and Learning, Bowling Green State University
This book, the first of its kind in English, is an edited collection of 10 original chapters devoted to the multidisciplinary study of the acquisition and production of French interlanguage (IL). The international group of scholars (French, British, Swedish, Irish, Polish, and Belgian) contributing to the volume explores, from a breadth of theoretical perspectives, the full range of French interlanguage from novices to near-natives of a variety of linguistic backgrounds. The volume will be of interest to all those interested in French as a Second or Foreign Language, from students, to teachers, to serious researchers, as well as those interested in the field of second language acquisition (SLA) in general.
A brief preface by Dewaele contextualizes the need for such a volume and introduces the researchers and their contributions.
In Chapter 1, 'Psycholinguistic Studies on the Acquisition of French as a Second Language: The "Learner Variety" Approach' by Watorek and Perdue, the authors adopt a functional, longitudinal, cross-linguistic perspective to examine communicative and formal factors that contribute to the 'idiosyncratic' tense and aspect utterances of beginning languages learners, i.e., utterances which are not clearly traceable to the first or second language and to the inappropriate, although grammatically correct, utterances of advanced language learners, especially with respect to deictic devices. In contrast with previous studies, they find that tense precedes aspect. They align their discussion with Corder's (1981) observation that learners have their own internal syllabus for the target language grammar, and conclude that 'learner-specific organizing principles, and their specific interaction, may constrain the path towards the target language' (pp. 13).
In Chapter 2, 'Discourse Structuring in Advanced L2 French: The Relative Clause,' Hancock and Kirchmeyer examine the relative clause as a measure of developing complexity in the French interlanguage of Swedish learners. Based on the information structure of relative clauses, they argue that syntactic complexity should be assessed at the micro-syntactic and macro-syntactic, or discursive, level. Their analysis of a corpus of interviews and video-retellings by native French speakers and Swedish learners show that with respect to hierarchisation and planning, or integration and packaging of information, most of their advanced learners are able to produce utterances with one autonomous relative clause and a few produce utterances with bi-or multi-propositional automous relatives with one function, but none are able to produce the complex multipropositional utterances with a variety of relatives showing multiple discourse function so typical of native French discourse, where a sequence of events is narrated with a succession of autonomous qui clauses.
In Chapter 3, 'Adverbs and Functional Categories in L1 and L2 Acquisition of French', Schlyter, follows Cinque's (1999) work on adverbs as specifiers of different functional heads. She analyzes a corpus of bilingual Swedish/French children and adult Swedes acquiring French in order to determine if they acquire adverbs in the order predicted by Cinque's Tense-Modal-Aspect Heads and their corresponding adverbs. She interprets the results within a generative framework and shows that first language (L1) acquisition support the Weak Continuity Hypothesis whereby the functional categories (FC) are present but weak, because the bilingual Swedish/French children follow the adverb hierarchy and successfully acquire the verb morphology. In contrast, the adult learners offer evidence that second language (L2) acquisition proceeds according to the Strong Continuity Hypothesis, whereby the FCs are present from the start, because the adult learners are able to produce adverbs from the top of the hierarchy from the beginning despite their rudimentary verb morphology.
In Chapter 4, 'The Emergence and Use of the Plus-Que-Parfait in Advanced French Interlanguage,' Howard compares the use of the pluperfect marking in reverse ordered clauses by three groups of Irish learners of L2 French. The first group had studied French for two years at the university and was about to study abroad for a year. The second group had also had two years of French at the university and was just returning from a year's study abroad. The third group had taken three years of French at the university instead of studying abroad. Groups 2 and 3 were more apt to use reverse ordering and to successfully mark it with the plus-que-parfait, although they only marked it in about a third of the possible contexts. Group 2, the study abroad group, was also the most likely not to mark any morphological contrast between the two clauses. In addition, when the plus-que-parfait was present, Groups 2 and 3 used fewer pragmatic devices and temporal adverbs to indicate reverse order. According to the author, the results largely correlate with Bardovi-Harlig (1994).
In Chapter 5, 'The Emergence of Morpho-syntactic Structure in French L2,' Myles explores the emergence of verb phrases in the very early stages of instructed L2 French and traces their development longitudinally over two years. She situates her results in a Universal Grammar (UG) framework, and finds that: 1) learners experience a verbless stage due to processing difficulties; 2) L2 learners, like L1 learners, go through an Optional Infinitive stage where verbs may be variably inflected in finite contexts; 3) the use of finite forms increase longitudinally, just as in the L1; 4) even for these classroom learners, the appearance of subject clitics follows similar patterns to those found in L1 French acquisition; 5) the appearance of free grammatical morphemes seems to be related to the projecting of the Inflectional Phrase (IP); 6) just as in the L1, finite and non-finite forms seem to be syntactically constrained; 7) learners pass through a verbless stage, a bare Verb Phrase (VP) stage, and finally on to an IP stage in their acquisition of L2 French.
In Chapter 6, 'Syntactic and Semantic Issues in the Acquisition of French Negation,' Véronique describes the development of negation in L2 French by speakers of Moroccan Arabic (a variety with a discontinuous negative morpheme) and compares it with that of other L1 backgrounds. He also examines the syntactic and semantic factors accounting for the acquisitional paths he observes. He finds the following developmental pattern: 1) non is present from the beginning, 2) pas is postponed to être, avoir, savoir, and connaître, then later to vouloir, falloir, and pouvoir, 3) when non-thematic target language (TL) verbs, especially copula and auxiliaries, become salient, pas develops TL placement, i.e, after the finite verb phrase (VP). His findings concur with Meisel's (1997a, b) in that non is never grammaticalized as a verb negator and that pas emerges before the VP is fully analyzed. In contrast to Meisel, however, placement of negation becomes more target-like as learners' repertoire of lexical verbs grows.
In Chapter 7, 'Gender and Number in French L2: Can We Find Out More About the Constraints on Production in L2?,' Prodeau adopts a psycholinguistic approach to analyze the persistent problems English speakers have in acquisition of L2 French gender and compare this to their acquisition of number, and find, based on experimental and on film retelling tasks, that number takes precedence over gender and that gender is neglected when not essential for comprehension. Errors in gender marking increase as the distance from the head noun increases, as well as if the noun is semantically or pragmatically associated with a particular sex, e.g., un danseur/une danseuse.
In Chapter 8, 'The Development of Gender Attribution and Gender Agreement in French: A Comparison of Bilingual First and Second Language Learners,' Granfeldt explores the development of gender in French noun phrases (NP) in the grammars of Swedish/French bilingual children and adult Swedish learners of French, in order to determine whether there are qualitative differences between how gender is acquired by children and adults, and how acquisition proceeds in the two cases. The study shows that there is a qualitative difference: when the bilingual children start using articles, and later adjectives, they master agreement. This is not the case for adults, although they do improve over time, leading the researcher to conclude that gender assignment and agreement are possible to acquire in an L2—at least if the L1 marks gender.
In Chapter 9, 'From Speech Community Back to Classroom: What Variation Analysis Can Tell Us About the Role of Context in the Acquisition of French as a Foreign Language,' Regan explores the long term effects of study abroad on the acquisition of ne deletion. In an important finding for universities whose study abroad programs may be threatened, Regan documents that the proficiency gains made in sociolinguistic competence during the year abroad are maintained, and in some cases increased, even a year after the students' return. In contrast to what Speech Accommodation Theory (Giles and Coupland, 1991) might predict, ne use of Irish university students did not 'decolloquialize' and accommodate back to previous higher levels of ne use found in more formal classroom French, despite the classroom being for most of them their only contact with French during the year that follows their year abroad. Thus the year abroad had a positive and durable impact on acquisition of native-like sociolinguistic competence in the learners' L2 French.
In Chapter 10, 'The Role of Psycholinguistic Factors in the Development of Fluency Amongst Advanced Learners of French,' Towell and Dewaele examine the development of L2 fluency in the context of Levelt's model of speech production. Three accounts for the growth of fluency are discussed: 1) the automization of knowledge model (i.e., increased knowledge leads to increased fluency), 2) the processing model (i.e., increased fluency allows for a subsequent increase in knowledge, as determined by working memory capacity), and 3) the implicit vs. explicit learning model (i.e., explicit meta-linguistic knowledge does not become automatic implicit knowledge, impeding fluency for L2 speakers). In their study of pre- and post-study abroad British university students, they find partial support for the automization of knowledge model by the growth in both knowledge and fluency as a result of their study in France, although this position is partially undermined by the lack of correlation between knowledge and fluency post-study abroad. The processing model is also largely supported, especially in their weakest learners. Finally, with respect to implicit vs. explicit learning, despite gains in L2 fluency as a result of study abroad, learners did not demonstrate the same levels of fluency as in their L1s, perhaps due to L2 knowledge being automatized, declarative knowledge, whereas L1 knowledge is implicit, procedural knowledge.
The volume concludes with an index of subjects and authors.
This volume makes a major contribution to our understanding of the development of French interlanguage. Among its strengths are its rich collection of empirical data, its integration with second language acquisition (SLA) theories, its breadth of theoretical perspectives (from functionalism and universal grammar to variationist sociolinguistics and psycholinguistics), its international group of contributors, and its expansion of L1-L2 language pairs (Italian, Polish, Swedish, Irish, Moroccan Arabic and English) at varying levels of proficiency, which helps tease apart general interlanguage features from language specific influence. Focus on French as a Foreign Language merits a place in the library of not just of French specialists (researchers, students, and teachers of French as a Foreign/Second Language) but also of researchers in second language acquisition and production regardless of their specific language orientation.
Bardovi-Harlig, K. (1994). Reverse-order reports and the acquisition of tense: Beyond the principle of chronological order. Language Learning 44 (2), 243-82.
Cinque, G. (1999). Adverbs and Functional Heads: A Cross-linguistic Perspective. New York, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Corder, S. P. (1981). Post Scriptum. Langages, 57, 39-41.
Giles, H. and Coupland, N. (1991). Language Contexts and Consequences. Milton Keynes: Open University Press.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Bonnie Fonseca-Greber (Ph.D. University of Arizona, Second Language Acquisition and Teaching) is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Romance Languages, the School of Teaching and Learning, and the Department of German, Russian, and East Asian Languages, at Bowling Green State University, where she teaches Language Pedagogy and French Linguistics. Her research interests include language variation and change in spoken French and their implications for French teaching and French teachers.