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Factors in the use of the simple past tense by Mandarin and Tamil ESL learners Mike Tiittanen Copyright, Mike Tiittanen, 2011.

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Presentation on theme: "Factors in the use of the simple past tense by Mandarin and Tamil ESL learners Mike Tiittanen Copyright, Mike Tiittanen, 2011."— Presentation transcript:

1 Factors in the use of the simple past tense by Mandarin and Tamil ESL learners Mike Tiittanen Copyright, Mike Tiittanen, This work is the intellectual property of the author.

2 Summary of study Compared the knowledge and oral production of the simple past tense by Mandarin and Tamil learners Results: a) knowledge similar b) Tamils more accurate in oral production (on one task) c) some types of verbs were more accurate than others

3 Relevance a) knowledge of past tense acquisition b) importance of accuracy in past tense (past > past progressive >present perfect > past perfect) (Bardovi-Harlig 2000) c) EFL context (China) d) ESL teachers + classroom materials development e) publishers

4 Background – L1 influence on L2 grammar Research – L1 may influence acquisition of L2 grammar (Jarvis & Odlin 2000, Orr 1987) Tamil has past tense (Annamalai & Steever 1998) Mandarin does not have past tense (Smith & Erdbaugh 2005) Mandarin learners : a)low accuracy in use of past tense (Witton-Davies 2004) b) irregular verbs more accurate than regular verbs (Goad, White and Steele 2003)

5 Developmental phenomena (past tense) Telic verbs – inherent endpoint e.g. – John finished his PhD. Atelic verbs – no inherent endpoint e.g. – John watched TV. Telic verbs are more accurate than atelic verbs (Bardovi-Harlig 2000) Irregular verbs are more accurate than regular verbs (Perdue 1993 Vol. II5)

6 Research questions Difference in knowledge of simple past tense for Tamil and Mandarin learners? Difference in accuracy of oral production of simple past tense for the L2 groups? Difference in accuracy of regular and irregular verbs? Order of accuracy of Aspect Hypothesis (e.g. – telic verbs more accurate?)

7 Participants of study 21 Mandarin speakers and 21 Tamil speakers Similar grammar test (OPT) scores – Mandarin (53.1%) & Tamil (49.8%) Similar knowledge of historic present tense Similar length of residence, age-of-arrival and age at time of study

8 Data elicitation techniques Film retell; 7 min. ESL video Interview questions Fill-in-the-gap task Verbal protocol (of fill-in-the-gap task)

9 Overall results by task both L1 groups - scores higher on the fill- in-gap than on oral production tasks. Mandarin group: fill-in-gap mean = 84.7% film retell mean = 30.6% interview qtns = 26.8% Tamil group: fill-in-gap mean = 75.3% film retell mean = 39.8 % interview qtns mean = 52.1%

10 Fill-in-gap vs. oral production Both L1 groups – knowledge higher than oral production Difference between knowledge and oral production greater for Mandarin group Processing constraints on oral production? Pedagogical relevance? – more practice with oral production of simple past; particularly Mandarin ESL/EFL learners

11 Fill-in-gap results Few differences between and within L1 groups on different types of verbs Tamil; telic (81.0%) > atelic (69.5%)

12 Types of mistakes on fill-in-gap 1) base form (e.g.- speak) 94/296.5 mistakes 2) overregularization (e.g. falled) – 43.5/296.5 mistakes 3) past progressive – 26.0 / mistakes 4) verb-ing – 17.0 / mistakes 5) past perfect – 12.0 / mistakes 6) past participle – 10.0 / mistakes

13 Potential significance of types of mistakes Editing exercises; types of errors learners really make Use interlanguage of students in mistake correction (including oversuppliance) L1 differences in types of errors Differences in types of mistakes on fill-in- gap versus oral production errors (e.g. – overregularization)

14 L1 differences – oral accuracy Tamil participants more accurate than Mandarin participants (interview questions: 52.1% vs. 26.8%) Probable reason – L1 influence Tamil past tense is a bound suffix No grammatical past tense in Mandarin

15 Significance of L1 difference Role of L1 influence in grammar Pedagogy – oral practice with past tense Materials for oral practice of past tense a) film retell b) form-focussed interview questions Need for more studies

16 Film retell task Smaller difference between L1 groups (Mandarin – 30.6%; Tamil – 39.8%) Film retell elicited many historic present tokens from 2 native speaker participants Did some Tamil participants use historic present on film retell? Declarative knowledge before procedural knowledge?

17 Oversuppliance of simple past Oversuppliance – e.g. I didn’t went shopping yesterday. Mandarin learners had more oversuppliances of simple past tense a) film retell; Mandarin – 8.2% Tamil – 4.9% b) interview qtns; Mandarin – 15.0 % Tamil – 5.3%

18 Regular and irregular verbs Mandarin; (film retell) reg.(16.3%) vs. irreg. (36.2%) (interview) reg. (19.4%) vs. irreg. (30.1%) Tamil; (film retell) reg.(21.1%) vs. irreg. (47.2%) (interview) reg.(48.9%) vs. irreg.(52.7%)

19 Regular and irregular verbs Results consistent with dual route paradigm – 1) first locate irregular form; 2) if irregular form not found, apply past tense rule (i.e. – verb + -ed) Time constraints and no focus on form Irregular verbs more frequent (Pinker 1999) Irregular verbs more salient (Goldschneider & DeKeyser 2005)

20 Regular and irregular verbs Tamil group – no difference between irregular and regular verbs on interview L1 structure – Tamil has a bound inflectional past tense suffix (Lehmann 1989) ; Mandarin does not L1 structure? – Mandarin does not allow final consonant clusters (e.g. – walked) (Goad, White & Steele 2003) /kt/

21 Aspect Hypothesis Both L1 groups more accurate with telic verbs than atelic verbs Mandarin (film retell) telic (44.6 %) vs. atelic (12.0%) (interview) telic (44.5%) vs. atelic (13.2%) Tamil (film retell) telic (47.4%) vs. atelic (26.1%) (interview) telic (67.3%) vs. atelic (41.1%)

22 Telic and atelic verbs Telic verbs – inherent endpoint (Andersen & Shirai 1994) Simple past – usually an endpoint (Declerck 1991) Input – Child L1 studies; telic verbs more frequent past tense input (Andersen 2002) Telic verbs - the prototypical past tense for L2 learners Pedagogical relevance - positive evidence, focused noticing, production (Bardovi-Harlig & Reynolds 1995)

23 Types of errors (oral production) 1)Base form (film retell – 66.1%; interview qtns. – 60.9%) 2) Simple present (film retell – 20.0%; interview qtns. – 27.5%) 3) ALL verb-ING (film retell – 8.2%; interview qtns. – 4.7%) 4) ALL be + verb (film retell – 4.9%; interview qtns. – 3.8%)

24 Types of errors (oral production) L1 differences in types of errors base form – Mandarin > Tamil ALL verb-ING – Tamil > Mandarin ALL be + verb – Tamil > Mandarin Error rate differences reflect differences in L1 structure – base form (no inflection) ALL verb-ING (inflection) ALL be + verb (inflection)

25 Past time adverbials On verbal protocols, more Mandarin participants mentioned the presence of a past time adverbial on fill-in-gap task (Mandarin – 7) (Tamil – 1) Ratio of past time adverbials to correct past tense verbs Mandarin (1.50) vs. Tamil (1.21) Use of time adverbs in Mandarin

26 Questions? Comments? Questions about the study Potential relevance of study a) ESL/EFL acquisition and teaching b) classroom materials development c) ESL/EFL publishers –

27 References Andersen, R. (2002). The dimensions of “pastness”. In R. Salaberry & Y. Shirai (Eds.), The L2 acquisition of tense- aspect morphology (pp ). Amsterdam: John Benjamins. Andersen, R. & Shirai, Y. (1994). Discourse motivations for some cognitive acquisition principles. Studies in Second Language Acquisition 16, Annamalai, E. & Steever, S.B. (1998). Modern Tamil. In S.B. Steever (Ed.), The Dravidian Languages (pp. 100 – 128). London and New York: Routledge. Bardovi-Harlig, K. (2000). Tense and aspect in second language acquisition: Form, meaning, and use. Oxford: Blackwell. Bardovi-Harlig, K. & Reynolds, D. (1995). The role of lexical aspect in the acquisition of tense and aspect. TESOL Quarterly, 29, 107 – 131. Declerck, R. (1991). Tense in English: Its structure and use in discourse. London and New York: Routledge. Goad, H., White, L. & Steele, J. (2003). Missing inflection in L2 acquisition: Defective syntax or L1-contrained prosodic representations? Canadian Journal of Linguistics, 48 (3/4), 243 – 263. Goldschneider, J.M. & DeKeyser, R.M. (2005). Explaining the “Natural Order of L2 Morpheme Acquisition” in English: A Meta-analysis of Multiple Determinants” Language Learning, 55 (Supplement 1), 27 – 77. Jarvis, S. (2000). Methodological rigor in the study of transfer: identifying L1 influence in the interlanguage lexicon. Language Learning, 50(2), 245 – 309. Lehmann, T. (1989). A grammar of modern Tamil. Pondicherry, India: Pondicherry Institute of Linguistics and Culture. Orr, G. (1987). Aspects of the second language acquisition of Chichewa noun class morphology. PhD dissertation. University of California, Los Angeles. Perdue, C. (ed.) (1993). Adult language acquisition: Cross-linguistic perspectives (Volume II: The results) Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Pinker, S. (1999). Words and rules. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson. Smith, C. & Erbaugh, M. (2005). Temporal interpretation in Mandarin Chinese. Linguistics, 43 (4) 713 – 756. Witton-Davies, G. (2004). Past tense variability in the oral narratives of university students. Paper presented at 2004 International Conference and Workshop on TEFL and Applied Linguistics.

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