PhD Completed: 2020-2021 Academic Year
Supervisor: Dr Elisabet Pladevall
Area/Topic of Research: Generative & Instructed Second-Language Acquisition
Title/Provisional Title of Thesis: It’s Definitely Atomic: The Acquisition of English Article and Noun-Type Features by Speakers of Mandarin in an Instructed Second-Language Acquisition Context
Short Abstract: Recent Generative SLA (GenSLA) research has tried to account for the assembly of syntactic and semantic features of L2-English articles (Cho & Slabakova, 2014) and nouns (Choi & Ionin, 2017) but has done little to turn these results into practical teaching pedagogy (Whong, Gil, & Marsden, 2013). Drawing on the Feature Reassembly Hypothesis (Lardiere, 2008, 2009a, 2009b) and the Bottleneck Hypothesis (Slabakova, 2008, 2009a, 2009b) and following on previous research by Snape and Yusa (2013), Lopez (2017), Abumelha (2018), and Sabir (2018), this study seeks to fill this gap by creating a new instructional context informed by the findings and theories within GenSLA, termed linguistically-informed instruction, where teaching of L2-English articles and nouns is done through semantic universals: [±definite] for articles and [±atomic] and [±count] for nouns. The present study seeks to follow-up and examine the learning task that L1-Mandarin, L2-English learners face when acquiring English articles and noun types. To evaluate the effect of instruction, three participant groups were established: (1) a group which received linguistically-informed instruction, (2) a group which received instruction using their traditional textbook, and (3) a group which received no extra instruction. The participants were tested pre- and post-intervention using an elicited-sentence imitation task, an acceptability judgment task, and a forced-choice elicitation task. Significance in the results suggests that if linguistically-informed instruction were implemented in a systematic way throughout a course, it may lead to greater gains than standard instruction when teaching complex linguistic concepts.