Grammatical gender in L2 Swedish in Finnish-speaking immersion students: A comparison with non-immersion students

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Swedish grammatical gender is challenging for Finnish-speaking learners of Swedish due to its abstract meaning, the complex nature of Swedish NPs and the low salience of the morphology used to mark gender. Our study compares the expression of gender in texts written in Swedish by Finnish-speaking 12- and 15-year-old immersion students with that of 16-year-old non-immersion students. The results show that NPs with gender agreement, i.e. those with several morphemes marking gender, are more difficult than NPs with only one marker. In all informant groups, uter is significantly easier than neuter, but uter is also overused, as approximately 75% of all Swedish nouns are uter in modern Swedish. Comparisons between different informant groups show that non-immersion students often reach a significantly higher level of accuracy than immersion students, which indicates that formal teaching has a positive effect.

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The Swedish V2 word order has been considered a notorious source of difficulty for L2 learners due to its strict rules. This study explores subject-verb word order in texts written in Swedish by 12-year-old and 15-year-old Finnish-speaking immersion students and by 16-year-old non-immersion students. Although the L1 of the informants lacks obligatory inversion, the analyses show that informants in all three groups have reached a high accuracy level in several aspects of word order in main clauses. However, the informants struggle with challenges that are similar to those detected in previous research: inversion is omitted in its obligatory occasions in main clauses but simultaneously overused in subordinate clauses where word order is canonical. In main clauses, the challenges focus on declarative main clauses with inversion. In subordinate clauses, on the contrary, the challenges focus on questions.
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This paper reports on a test of the validity of Pienemann's (1998) Processability Theory (PT). This theory predicts that certain morphological and syntactic phenomena are acquired in a fixed sequence. Three phenomena were chosen for this study: attributive adjective morphology, predicative adjective morphology, and subordinate clause syntax (placement of negation). These phenomena are located at successive developmental stages in the hierarchy predicted by PT. We test whether they actually do appear in this predicted hierarchical order in the L2 of Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish learners. The three languages mentioned are very closely related and have the same adjective morphology and subordinate clause syntax. We can, therefore, treat them as one language for the purposes of this study. Three analyses have been carried out: The first follows Pienemann's theory and is concerned only with syntactic levels; the second is a semantic analysis of the acquisition of number versus that of gender; the third analysis studies the various kinds of mismatches between the inflection of the noun, the controller, and the adjective. The results are the following: The first test supports PT as it has been described by Pienemann. The second analysis shows that there is an acquisitional hierarchy such that number is acquired before gender (in adjectives), and the mismatch analysis raises questions about the fundamental assumptions of the theory.
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Much of the research on L2 article acquisition has investigated the effects of semantic, syntactic, and discourse universals on the sys- tematicity and variability of learners' article use. The present paper looks at systematicity from the combined perspective of two putative discourse universals related to topic continuity (e.g., Givon, 1983) that have been addressed only separately in past studies of article acquisition: the tendency to mark the distinction between topics and comments (e.g., Huebner, 1983) and the tendency to mark the dis- tinction between new, continuous, and reintroduced NP referents (e.g., Chaudron & Parker, 1990). The present study examines how well these discourse universals account for the patterns of article use and nonuse found in narratives written by 199 Finnish-speak- ing and 145 Swedish-speaking adolescent learners of English. The quantitative results of the study cast some doubt on learners' sensi- tivity to the topic-comment distinction and also suggest that learners' tendency to mark distinctions between new, continuous, and reintro- duced NP referents is influenced by the prominence of such distinc- tions in the L1. The quantitative results are supported by a qualitative analysis of a subset of the data that suggests numerous other ele- ments that are needed to characterize the systematicity of individual learners' interlanguage article systems.
We examined the role of modality in learning second language (L2) grammar and forming implicit (unconscious) and explicit (conscious) knowledge. To this end, we isolated the effects of the physical medium of input (i.e., aural or visual) from those of the presentation method (i.e., word‐by‐word or simultaneous). We also explored the role of test modality in L2 performance, by including L2 knowledge tests in both aural and visual modes. Native English speakers engaged in meaning‐focused integrated practice of 3 German syntactic rules. In Experiment 1, learners were given aural or visual word‐by‐word (rapid serial visual presentation; RSVP) input and in Experiment 2, they were given aural or natural written input. We found evidence of learning across all 4 groups, but different types of resultant knowledge. In particular, learners gained explicit knowledge in all input modalities, yet only those trained with natural written input also developed robust implicit knowledge. We conclude that the permanence of visual input may be a critical advantage for beginning learners to develop implicit knowledge of word order rules. Support in the form of written materials can ease the cognitive burden on beginning learners, with better outcomes as a result.
Finnish: A Comprehensive Grammar presents a fresh, accessible and thorough description of the language, concentrating on the real patterns of use in modern Finnish. The book moves from the sound system through morphology and word classes to a detailed analysis of sentence structures and semantic features. Key features include: particular focus on examples from spoken Finnish reflecting current usage, grammatic phenomena classified as common or rare, appendices distinguishing base forms from final letter combinations, English-Finnish contrasts highlighted throughout. This Comprehensive Grammar is an essential reference for the intermediatre and advanced learner and user of Finnish.
There are two primary goals for this study – first, to analyse definiteness and article use in spontaneous writing in Swedish by 15-year-old Finnish immersion students (n = 162) and secondly, to compare their performance with that of non-immersion students at the same age (n = 67). Analyses at the group level show that immersion students usually perform significantly better than the control group, but they also reveal similar problems to what L2-Swedish non-immersion students have demonstrated in previous studies, such as omission of indefinite articles and difficulty in choosing the right definite form of the noun. Still, these inaccuracies occurred less often in the data from the immersion students. The studied constructions also show at the group level an acquisition order similar to that reported in previous studies, explainable by different aspects of complexity and cross-linguistic influence. Analyses on the individual level, however, show different acquisition orders depending on the criteria being used.
Oral and written second language data from two groups of adolescent bilingual speakers (L1 Finnish/L2 Swedish, L1 Spanish/L2 Swedish respectively) were analyzed and compared to equivalent data from a group of matched monolingual speakers of Swedish. Each group comprised 12 subjects, all of whom were students at upper secondary school level. The bilingual speakers were judged by their teachers to speak Swedish without any noticeable foreign accent in everyday oral conversation. They had all started their second language acquisition before puberty, some at pre-school age (< 6) and some at school-age (> 7). The bilingual and monolingual speakers had earlier been shown not to differ significantly on measures designed to tap language proficiency in cognitively demanding linguistic tasks (Hyltenstam & Stroud, in preparation). On measures of lexical/grammatical accuracy and appropriateness, however, the topic of the present analysis, there were clear differences between bilingual and monolingual speakers of Swedish. The results in the present paper are presented against the background of the notions of completeness and fossilization. The issue of competence vs. control is also addressed. Furthermore, the relationship between ultimate attainment and age of onset of second language acquisition is treated in some detail.
Gender is a fascinating category, central and pervasive in some languages and totally absent in others. In this new, comprehensive account of gender systems, over 200 languages are discussed, from English and Russian to Archi and Chichewa. Detailed analysis of individual languages provides clear illustrations of specific types of system. Gender distinction is often based on sex; sometimes this is only one criterion and the gender of nouns depends on other factors (thus 'house' is masculine in Russian, feminine in French and neuter in Tamil). Some languages have comparable distinctions such as human/non-human, animate/inanimate, where sex is irrelevant. No other textbook surveys gender across this range of languages. Gender will be invaluable both for class use and as a reference resource for students and researchers in linguistics.
Work in progress on the acquisition of grammatical gender in Swedish is presented. The early phases of the acquisition of gender by one Swedish child are studied in some detail. Comparisons are made with second language learners. The evidence available shows that Swedish children acquire certain aspects of the gender system early and in a largely error-free way. The acquisition of gender by young children who acquire Swedish as a second language is very similar to that of Swedish monolingual children. It is claimed that an important key to the acquisition of the Swedish gender system is the definite suffix and its important semantic and communicative role.
Examining the role of instruction in second language acquisition (SLA) entails not only a specification of what aspects of SLA stand to be affected but also a clear conception of what is meant by instruction. In this paper the potential of various instructional strategies for promoting SLA among child second language (L2) learners is considered in relation to empirical findings in early French immersion programs. Several principles are proposed concerning the what, when, and how of code-focused L2 instruction in a communicatively oriented school-based acquisition context. These proposals need to be put to the test in further experimental research.
If the ability to use language in the restricted sense (i.e., a communication system characterized by double articulation) is quintessentially human, then explaining this ability is a crucial task for cognitive science, and explaining its acquisition is a crucial task for developmental psychology. If the difficulty of acquiring a second language (L2), at least at a later age, stands in sharp contrast to the child's celebrated accomplishments, then explaining this contrast is equally important for developing a complete understanding of humans' abilities to use and acquire language. In fact, it can be argued that it is the enormous contrast between the two phenomena that needs explaining, rather than either of the two phenomena per se. One way to tackle this problem is the social science approach of correlating age and many other demographic variables with success in acquisition: to disentangle design features of the species from accidental characteristics of the environment. Another approach consists of investigating what elements or characteristics of an L2 are hard to acquire: to understand better how weaknesses in the acquisition process interact with the design features of human languages. And of course, one can look at the two variables in interaction with each other: Which problematic elements of the language are an issue in L2 learning at any age, and which are mostly a problem for later acquirers only? Or even better, how do five different variables interact in L2 acquisition: the characteristics of the L2, the influence of the first language (L1), the role of age, the role of individual differences in cognitive and affective "aptitudes," and the role of learning context, be it the native-speaking environment or the classroom, the latter representing, of course, a wide variety of learning contexts with different degrees of emphasis on form and meaning? The focus of this introductory review article is on the characteristics of the L2 itself (and its differences from L1) that make its acquisition difficult. Given the very broad nature of the topic, I will touch on the issues of age, other individual differences, and learning context only to the extent that they cannot be ignored because nothing can be generalized without taking them into account. I also restrict discussion to morphosyntax rather than phonology or the lexicon and to the acquisition of competence rather than processing, recognizing here too that all such separations are to some extent superficial because the meaning of morphemes and the distribution of their allomorphs cannot be acquired without the phonological capacity to extricate them from the flood of sounds in every sentence, and because competence is only a (some would say fictional) abstraction of what humans do when they understand or produce language, and acquiring this competence necessarily happens through processing input (cf., esp., Pienemann, 2003; Truscott & Sharwood Smith, 2004). Finally, I emphasize publications from the past 5 years in keeping with the criteria for selecting articles for the Best of Language Learning series.
Some researchers have posited a &;ldquo;natural&;rdquo; order of acquisition of English grammatical morphemes common to all learners of English as a second language, but no single cause has been shown for this phenomenon. This meta-analysis investigated whether a combination of five determinants (perceptual salience, semantic complexity, morphophonological regularity, syntactic category, and frequency) accounts for a large part of the total variance found in acquisition order. Oral production data from 12 studies over almost 25 years, together involving 924 subjects, were pooled. Multiple regression analysis showed that a very large portion of the total variance in acquisition order is explained by the combination of the five determinants. We suggest research on other potential contributing factors and discuss the need for similar research in other languages.
The purpose of this study was to determine whether it is possible to distinguish between “difficult” and “easy” constructions for second language (L2) learners by examining characteristics of the structures as they occur in aural input. In a multidimensional analysis of 3 English structures with different acquisition profiles—the simple past, possessive determiners his/her, and the progressive aspect—we examined the phonological, morphosyntactic, and lexicosemantic characteristics of the forms as they occurred in a 110,000-word corpus of instructional talk to L2 learners. We analyzed the type/token distributions of the forms, their lexical properties, and their perceptual salience. Our findings revealed key input factors that distinguished between the early-acquired progressive, on the one hand, and the later-acquired past and his/her determiners, on the other hand. These results lend support to theoretical accounts of the input–acquisition relationship and also generate hypotheses for manipulating instructional input to increase the salience of opaque constructions.
Thesis (doctoral)--University of Göteborg, 1992. Includes bibliographical references (p. 226-237).
This article re-examines the question of what makes some grammatical structures more difficult to learn than others, arguing that this question can only be properly understood and investigated with reference to the distinction between implicit and explicit knowledge of a second language. Using a battery of tests that were designed to measure implicit and explicit L2 grammatical knowledge of seventeen grammatical structures (Ellis 2005 ), learning difficulty in relation to these two types of knowledge was investigated. The results showed that structures that were easy in terms of implicit knowledge were often difficult in terms of explicit knowledge and sometimes vice versa and that, overall, there was no correlation between the rank orders of difficulty of seventeen grammatical structures for the two types of knowledge. A correlational analysis showed that the structures varied as to whether it was implicit or explicit knowledge of them that was related to a measure of general language proficiency. A regression analysis demonstrated that both types of knowledge predict general language proficiency.
Four teachers & their eight classes of 179 5th-grade (10-11-year-old) students participated in this quasi-experimental classroom study, which investigated the effects of form-focused instruction (FFI) & corrective feedback on immersion students' ability to accurately assign grammatical gender in French. The FFI treatment, designed to draw attention to selected noun endings that reliably predict grammatical gender & to provide opportunities for practice in associating these endings with gender attribution, was implemented in the context of regular subject-matter instruction by three of the four teachers, each with two classes, for approximately 9 hours during a 5-week period, while the fourth teacher taught the same subject matter without FFI to two comparison classes. Additionally, each of the three FFI teachers implemented a different feedback treatment: recasts, prompts, or no feedback. Analyses of pretest, immediate-posttest, & delayed-posttest results showed a significant increase in the ability of students exposed to FFI to correctly assign grammatical gender. Results of the written tasks in particular, & to a lesser degree the oral tasks, revealed that FFI is more effective when combined with prompts than with recasts or no feedback, as a means of enabling L2 learners to acquire rule-based representations of grammatical gender & to proceduralize their knowledge of these emerging forms.
Taustat ja odotukset [Immersion families in the spotlight: Their background and expectations
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Att tala svenska som en infödd - eller nästan [To speak Swedish as a native speaker - almost
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Sex-based and non-sex-based gender systems
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Corbett, Greville. 2013. Sex-based and non-sex-based gender systems. In Matthew S. Dryer & Martin Haspelmath (eds.), The World Atlas of Language Structures Online. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.
Kielitiedosta kielitaitoon [From knowledge about languages to language proficiency
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The role of focus-on-form tasks in promoting child L2 acquisition
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Svenskans morfologi och syntax i ett andraspråksperspektiv [Swedish morphology and syntax from an L2 perspective
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Genus og transfer når norsk er andrespråk [Gender and transfer in L2 Norwegian
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Kontrastiv fonetik och syntax med svenska i centrum [Contrastive phonetics and syntax with Swedish in focus
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En genomgång av artikelbruket i vuxenspråket och en modell för analys av bruket i barnspråket [The articles in Swedish: A survey of article use in adult language and a model for analysis of the use in child language
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