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Chapter 3 Literature Review on Learning MVCs in L2 and Cross-linguistic Influence in L2 Acquisition and Processing

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唐萌萌 1983 年出生于山东省东营市。2005 年本科毕业于中国石油大学(华东)英语系,2007 年硕士毕业于中国石油大学(华东)英语语言文学系,后留校任教。2014 年被遴选为国家留学基金委“国际区域问题与外语高级人才”,赴英国约克大学攻读博士,2018 年获得应用语言学博士学位。现为中国石油大学(北京)外国语学院教师,硕士生导师,国际期刊International Review of Applied Linguistics in Language Teaching,Studies in Second Language Learning and Teaching 审稿人。长期从事应用语言学与认知神经语言学领域的教学和科研工作,先后主持教育部人文社科基金等省部级及校级项目五项。在Neuroscience Letters, International Journal of Bilingualism 等国内外期刊发表论文数十篇,出版著作五部。

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Chapter 3 Literature Review on Learning MVCs in L2 and Cross-linguistic Influence in L2 Acquisition and Processing

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Chapter 3 Literature Review on Learning MVCs in L2 and Cross-linguistic Influence in L2 Acquisition and Processing

There has been a lot of theoretical research on multi-verb structures,but only a handful of these have investigated the possible influence of related syntactic structures in Chinese on the acquisition of English MVCs. Conversely,to the best of our knowledge,even fewer studies have focused on how MVCs in English influence the acquisition of similar sentence structures in Chinese L2. Most of the previous studies have been isolated error analyses and employed relatively limited research methods,mainly focused on learners’ production. On the basis of cross-linguistic comparisons between English and Chinese MVCs,with an illustration of the key terminology of finiteness,the aim of the current research is to explore how the differences between the finite and non-finite distinctions in Chinese and English affect the acquisition and processing of MVCs in the L2(Chinese and English). In this chapter,I will briefly outline the previous work on the acquisition of MVCs in the L2,and summarize relevant studies in the field of cross-linguistic influence on both L2 acquisition and processing.

3.1 Previous Studies on Learning MVCs in L2

3.1.1 Learning English MVCs

Most previous research on the acquisition of English MVCs has focused on Chinese ESL learners’ production of non-finite verbs in English L2. The methodology comprises error analyses of learners’ compositions,comparisons of different tests(multiple-choice tests vs. writings)and corpus analyses.

For example,S. Yang and Huang(2009)argue that different syntactic structures influence Chinese learners’ acquisition of the English tense/aspect system. They surveyed 452 compositions written by five levels of Cantonese speakers of English,whose written language was Mandarin. The five levels of participants included primary school students(age:10),grade 1,3,and 5 middle-school students(age:12-16)and college students(age:19). The researchers investigated eight types of sentence with two verbs,which are,respectively,type I:subject+ auxiliaries+ V. +other phrases(e.g.,I could’t sleep at night),type II:subject+ V.+(other phrases)+infinitives(e.g.,I wanted to go home),type III:clause + clause(coordinate)(e.g.,I was drawing a picture and Mary was writing a letter),type IV:subject+ V. + clause(e.g.,she said that her mother was not feeling very well),type V:clause+ V.(e.g. what he wanted was very obvious),type VI:clause + clause(subordinate)(e.g.,Mary was late,because she was not feeling very well this morning),type VII:clause with embedded relative clause(e.g.,The book I bought yesterday is very interesting),type VIII:subject +V. +(other phrases)+ V.(e.g.,she walked to the couch and sat down). It was found that the L2 learners were better at marking the tense and aspect of the first verb rather than the second verb;however,in type II,with V1 as the predicate verb and V2 as the infinitive,the L2 learners tended to omit the past tense of the finite verb,and allocated the past tense instead to the non-finite verb(e.g.,I go to Nanjing attended the meeting). They argued that this was probably because of the similar sentence patterns in their L1. This type of error was only prominent among low-proficiency learners(primary school,grade 1 and 3 middle-school students). It was thus concluded that the syntactic structures(different sentences with two verbs including both mono-clauses and multi-clauses)influenced low-proficiency Chinese ESL learners’ usage of tense/aspect in English,and one interpretation was the influence from the L1 sentences. Even though the findings on the influence of syntactic structures on L2 temporal acquisition had some implications for future studies,this research suffered from the limitation that no systematic comparisons exist between Chinese and English related sentences,and there was no further discussion on whether it was the transfer of the form or the temporal meaning.

A different conclusion was drawn from Chang(2005)’s study,who investigated Chinese ESL learners’ acquisition of English finite and non-finite distinctions. He examined compositions(on the same topic)written by 102 undergraduates and hypothesized that,if Chinese ESL learners cannot distinguish [+-F],they will randomly use finite and non-finite verbs,which means that there would be [-F] forms in [+F] positions and vice versa. The results showed that,in finite positions,a high percentage of learners did not use inflected forms(e.g.,last year,my father say…)but,after auxiliaries,modal verbs,and to,inflected forms were seldom used(e.g.,can made). Thus,Chang argued that,although inflections of finite verbs were missing in their English to a considerable degree,Chinese learners indeed possessed syntactic knowledge of [+-F]. Chang also found that the participants demonstrated a knowledge of finite verbs,since they could use overt nominative subjects in finite clauses consistently(e.g.,they find that…),place negator and VP adverbs on the left of thematic verbs(e.g.,I don’t like it),and mark agreement correctly(e.g.,she is good at…). Based on these findings he argued that the interlanguage syntactic system and mechanism of feature checking remain unimpaired in Chinese learners of English. This research provides evidence that Chinese ESL learners may possess a knowledge of finite and non-finite distinctions,but the argument that [+-F] is used randomly if it is impaired is not sound because learners with an uninflectional background are likely to use bare verbs as both [+F] and [-F] when they have no knowledge of [+-F]. Thus,the question of whether Chinese L2 learners of English can acquire finite/non-finite distinctions in English requires further investigation.

X. Fang(2014)undertook a corpus-based study among L2 English learners with different L1 backgrounds(French,German,Chinese)and found that proficiency made a difference to the frequency of their use of non-finite verbs among these ESL learners. Low-proficiency Chinese learners(middle school students)and intermediate-proficiency learners(non-English college students)underused the -ing clauses in general,while high-proficiency learners(English majors)used them comparatively more frequently;low- and intermediate-proficiency learners underused the -ed clauses while high-proficiency learners overused this form in general;low-proficiency learners underused while upper-intermediate proficiency learners all overused infinitive clauses of verbs in general. Compared with the French and German ESL students,the difference between Chinese ESL learners and native speakers was more significant. In short,the low-proficiency Chinese learners tended to underuse non-finite forms,while high-proficiency learners displayed over usage. This research demonstrates the important role of L2 proficiency in the production of non-finite forms,but no further explanation was provided regarding why Chinese ESL learners differed more from English natives in comparison with learners from other language backgrounds.

There have also been several pedagogically-based researches,for example,low-proficiency Chinese ESL learners(middle school students)were found to perform better on multiple-choice rather than written production tasks(W. Shi,2010;S. Liu,2012;L. Yang,2012). It has been argued that it is easier for Chinese ESL learners to comprehend English MVCs than to produce them,although it is unclear whether the underlying cause is a developmental or a cross-linguistic issue.

Based on the theory proposed by Hu et al.(2001),that Chinese has no finiteness distinctions,Gisborne(2009)examined “the distribution of finiteness in Hong Kong English(HKE)in order to establish whether it can be argued that there is a lack of finiteness in the variety which reflects the lack of finiteness in Sinitic languages”(p. 151). Gisborne believes that there are four main areas which can show English finiteness distinctions:having an overt subject;being independent predicates;encoding a speech act function;and selecting either finite or non-finite complement. Among these four diagnostics,Gisborne chose the last criterion and searched for the complement usage after “guess”,“realize” and “suggest” in the International Corpus of English(ICE-HK). “If there is a perfect correlation between the complementation of matrix verbs in standard varieties of English and their correlates in HKE,then HKE maintains a finiteness contrast”(Gisborne,2009,p.157). The results showed that there were no sentences with “realize” non-finite complements in the corpus,but several tokens of “suggest” non-finite complements. He concluded that “the lack of finiteness is not systematic in HKE. For sure,I have found several examples which lack this morpho-syntactic feature distinction,but it is not at all clear that the grammar has settled on one typological pattern over another”(Gisborne,2009,p.166).

In sum,no consensus was reached on whether the lack of morphological finite and non-finite distinctions influences the production of English MVCs in the previous studies. Several researchers have argued that the syntactic structures in the L1 influence low-proficiency Chinese ESL learners’ acquisition of English tense/ aspect(e.g.,S. Yang & Huang,2009),and Chinese learners of English have less native-like production of non-finite verbs in comparison with learners from other backgrounds,such as French or German(e.g.,X. Fang,2014),all of which indicates the potential influence of a lack of morphological finite and non-finite distinctions in Chinese. Other researchers found no evidence of Chinese ESL learners’ lack of syntactic knowledge of an [+-F] distinction in their production,because in the syntactic position,where non-finite verbs should be used,inflected forms were seldom used and no systematic confusion of finite and non-finite complements after “guess”,“realize” and “suggest” occurred(e.g.,Chang,2005;Gisborne,2009).

As stated above,the different conclusions drawn from these studies might be attributed to the different proficiencies of test groups and different types of sentences where non-finite verbs function in different syntactic positions. To demonstrate clearly whether and how the lack of the morphological finite and non-finite distinctions in Chinese influence Chinese learners’ acquisition of English finite and non-finite distinctions,it is necessary for the test groups to have a broader range to show the possible influence of the variable—the L2 proficiency and the investigated sentences with a non-finite verb classified by comparing them with reminiscent Chinese sentences. Various research methods,such as big-scale interlanguage corpus,grammatical judgments,and real-time tests,are also needed to examine the different aspects of possible L1 influence.

3.1.2 Learning Chinese MVCs

In the opposite direction of learning Chinese as the L2,since one of the characteristics of Chinese is its lack of overt morphological markers,learners from a morphological overt background(English)cannot rely on the morphological tense to interpret the grammatical relations in MVCs. They may avoid the usage of sentences that do not exist in the L1(e.g.,Jin,1994;W. Zhou,2009;Sun,2008),overuse the similar-to-L1 structures(e.g.,Zhao,2006),or equate a Chinese grammatical form to a L1 form(e.g.,L. Jin,2009;Y. Huang & Yang,2004)in the acquisition of Chinese sentences.

The difficulties associated with learning Chinese-specific sentences[],such as pivotal or serial-event sentences,have been investigated by researchers(e.g.,W. Zhou,2009;Sun,2008). In W. Zhou(2009)’s study,it was found that,in the Foreign Students’ Chinese Interlanguage Error Corpus(W. Zhou & Xiao,2004)of 900,000 words,1,321 sentences(including 1,173 correct usages and 148 misusages)were pivotal sentences while Chinese native speakers produced 2,171 pivotal sentences in the native Chinese speakers’ corpus with similar word counts. This shows that Chinese as L2 learners underuse these sentences. The usage of pivotal sentences increases in accordance with school grade,which indicates the role of L2 proficiency here. The errors tended to be the omission of a pivot or pivot predicate,the redundancy of aspectual morphemes(le,zhe,guò)after the predicate,incorrect word order and non-target-like word collocation.

The underuse of serial-event sentences was also found(Sun,2008). L2 learners of Chinese used 1,651 serial-event sentences in the Foreign Students’ Chinese Interlanguage Error Corpus(W. Zhou & Xiao,2009)of 900,000 words,while the native Chinese speakers used 1,930 serial-event sentences with the same words count. It emerged that L2 learners overused the directional verbs,such as dào(arrive),(go),lái(come):among the 1651 serial-event sentences,1,024 contained directional verbs(53.06%). In contrast,native Chinese used 1,930 serial-event sentences,of which only 598 contained directional verbs(30.98%). Learners’ usage of serial-event sentences increased in line with their L2 proficiency. Their errors tended to be incorrect word order,redundant verbs,the omission of verbs and non-target-like collocations.

As stated above,the problems associated with the acquisition of pivotal and serial-event sentences noted in the previous studies stressed learners’ underuse,and the misuse of forms included omission,redundancy,incorrect word order and non-target-like collocations. These researches provide us with general information about the difficulties and misuse in the L2 acquisition of pivotal and serial-event sentences,but the limitations are a lack of further discussion about the possible reasons for each type of error,and the neglect of the learners’ L1 backgrounds. If and how the morphological finite and non-finite distinctions in the L1 influence the acquisition of Chinese compound predicates remains unclear. In further exploration,a comparison of the learners’ interlanguage with the L1 and the L2 is needed together with an investigation of the usage of aspectual markers in these constructions which are used to interpret the internal relations of multiple verbs.

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章节目录

  • 3.1 Previous Studies on Learning MVCs in L2
    1. 3.1.1 Learning English MVCs
    2. 3.1.2 Learning Chinese MVCs
  • 3.2 Cross-linguistic Influences in L2 Acquisition
    1. 3.2.1 Form-meaning Mapping
    2. 3.2.2 Transfer Analysis and the Development of Cross-linguistic Influence Studies
    3. 3.2.3 Previous Studies on Morpho-syntactic Transfer in L2 Acquisition
  • 3.3 CLI in L2 Sentence Processing
    1. 3.3.1 Relations Between L2 Acquisition and Processing
    2. 3.3.2 L2 Salient Cues
    3. 3.3.3 Previous Studies on Cross-linguistic Influence in L2 Sentence Processing
  • 3.4 CLI from the Bidirectional Perspective
  • 3.5 Chapter Summary

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