English prepositions in phrasal verbs: A study in second language acquisition
AuthorThibeau, Tully Jude
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractThis study examines whether grammar instruction treatment, input processing, facilitates in learners of English as a Second Language (ESL) a distinction among sets of phrasal verbs containing prepositions. Input processing emphasizes difficult grammatical forms and provides a model for the behavior of the varying roles of phrasal verb prepositions. Such instruction follows three steps: (i) explaining the relation between a grammatical form and its meaning, (ii) informing learners of language processes that adversely influence the form-meaning relation, and (iii) implementing "structured input" activities that target the form in linguistic input, facilitating form-meaning relations. Prepositions in phrasal verbs perform specific roles for exclusive purposes, for instance in verb-particle constructions eat up, clean out, send on where prepositions mark aspectual properties for "completion-of-activity" (telicity) as well as "affectedness" of phrasal verb objects. ESL students were selected for the control and treatment groups. Each group participated in a pretest and posttest. Each test included three tasks: one comprehension (yes/no multiple choice) and two production (sentence completion and written narration). Time (pretest/posttest) and instruction (informal IP/formal explanation) were independent variables. Scores were the dependent variable. Preposition use is difficult for ESL learners, yet no generalizations explain learning difficulty nor has instruction addressed this difficulty. Input Processing furnishes needed instruction and is consonant with current linguistic theory (Minimalism): Word-order phenomena obey "frame alternations" that shift meaning by varying syntactic configuration (movement to alternate sites in phrase structure). Language acquisition centers on mapping functions linking semantics with syntax; thus, pedagogical practice and linguistic theory are united. Structured input activities are likened to natural input that children are exposed to when they acquire language. Acquisition processes link meaningful items in a mental lexicon to grammatical patterns constructed by a mental computer. Second language learners create links between meaning and form because they make decisions about meaning in input structured to highlight the form in which meaning is conveyed. Statistical analyses show treatment effect for input processing instruction on the comprehension task, so subjects' ability is improved through attention to mapping. Production task data were inconclusive yet revealed significance of frequency of prepositions' functions.
Degree ProgramGraduate College
Second Lanuage Acquisition