24.145, Diss: Language Acquisition/ Czech: Vanek: 'A Linguistic Analysis of Event Conceptualisation Processes in First and Second Language Discourse'

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LINGUIST List: Vol-24-145. Thu Jan 10 2013. ISSN: 1069 - 4875.

Subject: 24.145, Diss: Language Acquisition/ Czech: Vanek: 'A Linguistic Analysis of Event Conceptualisation Processes in First and Second Language Discourse'

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Date: Thu, 10 Jan 2013 11:12:18
From: Norbert Vanek [norbert.vanek at gmail.com]
Subject: A Linguistic Analysis of Event Conceptualisation Processes in First and Second Language Discourse

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Institution: Cambridge University 
Program: PhD in English and Applied Linguistics 
Dissertation Status: Completed 
Degree Date: 2013 

Author: Norbert Vanek

Dissertation Title: A Linguistic Analysis of Event Conceptualisation Processes
in First and Second Language Discourse 

Linguistic Field(s): Language Acquisition

Subject Language(s): Czech (ces)

Dissertation Director(s):
Henriette Hendriks

Dissertation Abstract:

Background: This dissertation examines conceptual reorganisation in L2 learners 
by comparing event construal patterns in L1 and L2 discourse. Previous 
research suggests that the way grammatical aspect is encoded in the speaker's 
L1 can influence how events are conceptualised in their L2 (von Stutterheim & 
Carroll 2006). Given the lack of consensus regarding partial (Bylund 2011) 
versus zero (Schmiedtová et al. 2011) susceptibility to reorganising L1 event 
construal patterns in L2, the present work contributes to the resonant discussion 
in this area by investigating the extent to which grammatical aspectual operators 
influence preverbal message generation (Levelt 1989, Habel & Tappe 1999) in 
three typologically diverse L1 groups and four L2 groups. The main novel feature 
of the employed approach is testing L2 learners’ ability to adjust L1 thinking-for-
speaking principles (Slobin 1996) in the target language by looking at four 
conceptualisation processes abreast (i.e. segmentation, selection, structuring 
and linearization). 

Method: Film verbalisations and picture descriptions by Czech, Hungarian and 
English native speakers; and Czech and Hungarian learners of English at basic 
and advanced levels were elicited to test (a) whether crosslinguistic event 
construal contrasts are attributable to the differences in the grammatical means 
that are available for encoding temporality in particular languages; and (b) 
whether learners’ degree of susceptibility to reorganising L1 principles for 
temporal reference in the target language changes as a function of L2 

Results: Analyses of L1 speakers’ and L2 learners’ discourse organisation 
patterns produced three major results. Firstly, preferences in message encoding 
typical of a given L1 proved closely interrelated with the aspectual operators 
available in that L1. Secondly, the aspectual system of L1 was found to have an 
impact on event construal choices in basic and also advanced level learners’ L2 
production. And thirdly, consistent patterns across groups remained largely 
unaffected by changes of modality (speech vs. writing), however, they showed 
some sensitivity to task type (film retellings vs. picture descriptions). 

Conclusions: These findings suggest that the processes of event 
conceptualisation in L2 largely rest on L1 fundaments, and that persisting L1 
principles can lead to significant digressions from target-like performance even in 
highly advanced learner varieties. Sustained conformity to L1-specific patterns 
found in all four processes challenges the view that L1 concepts are 
reorganisable in favour of the L2 concepts (Athanasopoulos & Kasai 2011, 
Papafragou et al. 2008). Instead, the findings are consistent with studies 
reporting very limited or no traces of conceptual reorganisation in L2 (Hendriks et 
al. 2008; von Stutterheim & Lambert 2005).

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