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Topic Prominence: Taiwanese EFL Learner's Interlanguage
Lai, Xiao lin
|Issue Date:||2016-05-09 13:31:53 (UTC+8)|
With regard to language typology, Mandarin Chinese has been considered a topic-prominent language while English a subject-prominent language (Li & Thompson & Thomson 1976, Rutherford, 1983, et al.) The present study explored Taiwanese EFL learners’ interlanguage from the perspective of typological transfer; it investigated the influence of first language (L1) topic-prominence typology on the transfer effect and the acquisition of L2 subject-prominence. Seventy-eight vocational high school students in Taipei County participated in the experiment and were further divided into three proficiency groups. Three tasks used to measure learners’ L2 interlanguage were a grammaticality judgment task, a translation task, and a free writing task. The tasks were designed on structures where L1 and L2 contrast typologically including four topic-prominence properties: null subject and null object, topicalized verb phrase and clause, serial verb construction, double nominatives and two subject-prominence properties: subject-verb agreement and dummy subject. Both quantitative and qualitative results showed that topic-prominence has been transferred into learners’ interlanguage; also, learners were found to have difficulty acquiring subject-prominence properties. Besides, it was discovered that as learners’ proficiency increases, there is a gradual decrease of topic-prominence and a relative development of subject-prominence. Pearson Correlation Coefficients indicated that the two linguistic typologies exert a high degree of correlation in learners’ interlanguage development. Finally, methodological effect was found in that, of the two controlled tasks, comprehension task was harder than the production task. Free writing task did not lead a significant group difference as the other tasks did. Also, different task formats changed the trend of topic-prominence transfer.
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