24.1941, Diss: Applied Ling/Lang Acq/English: Vraciu: 'Tense-Aspect Morphology in the Advanced English L2 Variety...'

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LINGUIST List: Vol-24-1941. Mon May 06 2013. ISSN: 1069 - 4875.

Subject: 24.1941, Diss: Applied Ling/Lang Acq/English: Vraciu: 'Tense-Aspect Morphology in the Advanced English L2 Variety...'

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Date: Mon, 06 May 2013 11:56:36
From: Eleonora Alexandra Vraciu [EleonoraAlexandra.Vraciu at uab.cat]
Subject: Tense-Aspect Morphology in the Advanced English L2 Variety: Exploring semantic, discourse and cross-linguistic factors

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Institution: Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona 
Program: English Philology 
Dissertation Status: Completed 
Degree Date: 2012 

Author: Eleonora Alexandra Vraciu

Dissertation Title: Tense-Aspect Morphology in the Advanced English L2 Variety: 
Exploring semantic, discourse and cross-linguistic factors 

Linguistic Field(s): Applied Linguistics
                     Language Acquisition

Subject Language(s): English (eng)


Dissertation Director(s):
Anne Trévise
Hortènsia Curell i Gotor

Dissertation Abstract:

Our dissertation belongs to a recently initiated line of studies seeking to 
characterise the advanced English L2 variety. We present an integrated analysis 
of a series of semantic, discourse and cross-linguistic factors underlying the use 
of verb forms by advanced French and Catalan learners of English as a foreign 
language. On the basis of a corpus of oral picture book narratives produced by 
two populations of language specialists (i.e., English Studies graduates and 
professors at several French and Catalan universities), we explore the 
distribution of tense-aspect morphology in relation to the aspectual class of 
predicates (the Aspect Hypothesis) and the temporal information predicates 
encode in narrative discourse (the Discourse Hypothesis). Tense-aspect forms 
are also considered from the perspective of the so-called L2 rhetorical style, the 
systematic linguistic choices learners make in a given communicative task 
drawing both on their learnt repertoire of L2 devices and on information selection 
and organisation patterns unconsciously transferred from their L1. 

The availability of grammaticalised aspectual distinctions in the learners’ mother 
tongues does not ensure a nativelike use of aspectual marking in advanced 
English L2. Differences reside in the use of tense-aspect morphology with 
durative atelic predicates and in the functional-semantic scope verb forms have 
in discourse. Prototypical predicate/form coalitions in learner production were 
found to remain strong in the use of the progressive with durative atelic 
predicates and to lead to an across-the-board reliance on the progressive, often 
in tension with the plot-advancing role of the predicate. The degree of 
grammaticalisation of the progressive aspect in the learners’ L1 seems to 
interfere with the hypotheses of use concerning the progressive form in English 
L2, particularly in the case of the French L1 student group. Only the professor 
groups employ tense-aspect forms in a way which is genuinely liberated from 
the semantic congruence with the predicate, similar to what was observed in 
English L1. With these very advanced learners, the progressive has a discourse-
specific function and becomes optional when viewpoint information can be 
retrieved from other elements in the context. 

English L2 form-function mappings in the domain of tense-aspect morphology 
were also found to be more limited or not to match the ones observed in English 
L1. A case in point is the non-progressive present or past form, strongly 
associated with plot-advancing contexts in the production of the student groups, 
whereas the non-progressive is a default form, encoding a variety of narrative 
material, in the production of the professor groups and the English native 
speakers. The cross-linguistic analysis of a specific type of narrative contexts, 
namely two episodes where the expression of simultaneity plays a central role, 
revealed the existence of a subtle L1 influence on the construction of a temporal 
perspective in English L2, even with the most proficient learners. These findings 
invite to a reflection on the margins of grammaticalised contrasts, where atypical 
coalitions arise, and how learners can grasp such peripheral uses in an 
instructional setting. They also indicate that L2 oral production at the advanced 
stages is bound to a linguistic and conceptualisation filter which is the legacy of 
learners’ L1.






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