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|Title:||Form-function Mappings in the Acquisition of If-conditionals: A Corpus-based Study|
Claire Hsun-huei Chang
second language acquisition
|Issue Date:||2009-09-17 16:24:02 (UTC+8)|
Issues of conditionals have been highlighted for a long time, but the focus was seldom fixed on acquisition, particularly for L2. The determinate features of tense, mood and modality are interwoven in the conditional construction, thus resulting in an insurmountable obstacle for L2 learners. However, the factors impede acquisition have never been satisfactorily treated. Therefore, this paper attempts to explore the L2 developmental sequence, and to probe the error characteristics of acquiring if-conditionals.
Disengaging the expression of conditionality into two dimensions: temporality and hypotheticality, we identified the features of syntactic forms and semantic functions of different conditional types, and created a new scheme to account for their mapping, on which the difficulty levels of acquisition were inferred. In contrast to the previous studies on the grounds of markedness theories, this research described the acquisition of conditionals in a Functional-Cognitive Model. Furthermore, the factors of difficulties were examined via an error analysis.
The targets are Chinese English learners, who were well-known to face great problems in expressing conditionals. The data was searched from CLEC (Chinese Learner English Corpus), a big-scale corpus consisting of roughly 1,000,000 words with error tags.
The investigation on the acquisition sequence and error patterns shows: (1) the acquisition order parallels to the prediction on the form-function mapping underpinnings: those with heavy content load and complex lexical shapes are acquired later (2) the two prominent misuses of the Chinese learners are addition and omission, resulted from hypercorrection and oversimplification. It was concluded that their difficulties could be ascribed to unfamiliarity of rules, complexities of forms and functions, and their mapping failure. Hence, this present work serves to provide some explanatory accounts, in a hope to unveil the mystery of the arduousness of acquiring conditionals, contribute to the tightening of acquisition theorizing and shed new insights into pedagogical growth.
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