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I Disappoint You or You Disappoint Me: L2 Acquisition of English Psych Verbs by Chinese EFL Learners Ai-li C. Hsin ( 忻愛莉 ) English Dept., NKNU

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Presentation on theme: "I Disappoint You or You Disappoint Me: L2 Acquisition of English Psych Verbs by Chinese EFL Learners Ai-li C. Hsin ( 忻愛莉 ) English Dept., NKNU"— Presentation transcript:

1 I Disappoint You or You Disappoint Me: L2 Acquisition of English Psych Verbs by Chinese EFL Learners Ai-li C. Hsin ( 忻愛莉 ) English Dept., NKNU

2 Introduction What are Psych Verbs? The positions for the stimuli and the experiencer in the sentences e.g. Please John’s words pleased everybody. Everybody was pleased by John’s words. e.g. Enjoy The children enjoyed the story.

3 Types of Psych Verbs Theme-Experiencer Verbs Experiencer-Theme Verbs

4 Mapping Arguments to Their Syntactic Positions The alternation of argument structure between the two classes of psych verbs 1a. The student fear exams. (Experiencer = Subject) 1b. Exams frighten the student. (Experiencer = Object)

5 Mapping Arguments to Their Syntactic Positions Possible Explanation (1) Thematic Hierarchy (Grimshaw, 1990) Agent > Experiencer > Goal > Theme Uniformity of Theta Assignment Hypothesis (UTAH) (Baker, 1988) UTAH: Identical thematic relationships between items are represented by identical structural relationships between those items at he level of D-structure

6 Mapping Arguments to Their Syntactic Positions Predicted Errors (White et al. 1999) 2a. *The students frighten exams. 2b. *Exams fear students.

7 Mapping Arguments to Their Syntactic Positions Possible Explanation (2) Pesetsky (1995) The major difference between the two classes of psych verbs is in ‘the presence of a cause argument’ in theme-experiencer verbs. Errors occur because learners cannot distinguish the causative nature of theme- experiencer verbs.

8 Conflation in Psych Verbs (Juffs 1996) CAUSE and STATE can be conflated in one verb. (See 3a) The other alternative construction: The periphrastic construction of causative verb make (See 3b) 3a. The students’ behavior disappointed the teacher. 3b. The students’ behavior made the teacher disappointed.

9 Conflation Parameter of Psych Verbs White (2003) explained that the conflation of semantic primitives CAUSE and STATE is not possible in Chinese. Hence periphrastic causative is adopted. This the parametric variation between English and Chinese. 3a. The students’ behavior disappointed the teacher. 3b. * 學生的行為失望了老師。

10 Conflation of CAUSE and STATE in Chinese The conflation of semantic primitives CAUSE and STATE in Chinese is limited to a few words, but not entirely impossible. 4a. Ta55 fan35 wo214. He annoy me ‘He annoyed me.’ 4b. Ta55 shi214/rang51 wo214 hen214 fan35. he make me very annoyed ‘He made me annoyed.’

11 Conflation of CAUSE and STATE in Chinese The problem with conflation of CAUSE and STATE in Chinese: Ambiguity. 5. Ta55 qi51 ta55 lao214-gong55. she angry her husband a. She made her husband angry. b. Her husband made her angry.

12 Passive Theme-Experiencer Sentence vs. Adjectival Structure Cupples (2002): In English, a passive theme-experiencer sentence resembled an adjectival structure and is more readily comprehensible than an active theme- experiencer sentence. 6a. The students’ behavior disappointed the teacher. 6b. The teacher was disappointed. (lao214shi55 jue35de0 hen214 shi55wang51).

13 Research Design Hypothesis 1. A psych verb is more difficult to acquire than an action verb. 2. An experiencer-theme verb is less problematic than a theme-experiencer verb. 3. L2 learners do not distinguish the two types of English psych verbs randomly; they can better tell one type from the other as their proficiency level improves.

14 Research Design 101 Chinese-speaking learners of English participated in the study. 39 junior high school students 40 senior high school students 22 graduate students (all majored in English)

15 Research Design Materials A total of 12 sentences were investigated in a grammaticality judgment task. Three correct sentences and one incorrect sentence for each verb type. Incorrect sentences were constructed by misplacing the arguments. Samples of test items: 1. E-T verb: The girl feared big cats. 2. T-E verb: *His father surprised his decision 3. Action verb: Students played basket ball.

16 Result and Discussion Mean scores for each verb type action verbs > experiencer-theme verbs > theme- experiencer verbs This order correlates with the Thematic Hierarchy Agent > Experiencer > Goal > Theme

17 Result and Discussion The general performance by the three groups Graduate Students > Senior H Students > Junior H Students Means scores for psych verbs Junior H Students > Senior H Students

18 Result and Discussion Action Verbs Significant differences are found between Graduate and Junior H, Senior H and Junior H E-T Verbs Significant differences are found between Graduate and Senior H, Graduate and Junior H T-E Verbs Significant differences are found between Graduate and Senior H, Graduate and Junior H

19 Result and Discussion Verb typeGraduate vs. Senior Senior vs. Junior Graduate vs. Junior action0.391 (n.s.)0.001** E-T verb0.000***0.676 (n.s.)0.002** T-E verb0.000***0.036*0.021* Significant difference bet. 3 Groups in Verb Categories

20 Result and Discussion Active-Passive Contrast In the graduate group, a significant difference of active-passive contrasts is observed for both action verbs and T-E verbs. In the senior h group, no significant difference is observed for any verb types. In the junior h group, a significant difference of active-passive contrasts is observed for action verbs and T-E verbs.

21 Result and Discussion Active-Passive Contrasts for the Three Groups Graduate Group Senior H Group Junior H Group Verb TypeMean Action-Active Action-Passive E-T Active E-T Passive T-E Active T-E Passive All Active All Passive

22 Result and Discussion Accuracy Rate by the Three Participant Groups Junior H Group Senior H Group Graduate Group Action Verbs72%92%94% E-T Verbs59%62%82% T-E Verbs43%48%68%

23 Conclusion 1. All three groups show the same order of acquisition – action verbs > (learnt before) E-T verbs > T-E verbs. 2. The senior high group succeeded less well in psych verbs than the junior high group; it could be reasoned that the senior high group is in the process of parameter resetting and thus confounding the two subcategories. 3. For Chinese learners the passive construction of the T-E psych verbs is easier than the active construction.

24 Thanks for your attention! Questions and feedback are welcome!


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