Chinese ESL Learners' Overuse of the Definite Article: A Corpus Study Open Access

Edmunds, Kimberly Marie (2013)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/9593tv212?locale=en
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Abstract

Even at an advanced level of English proficiency, non-native speakers will sometimes produce errors of unidiomaticity: language that is clear in its meaning, but sounds "strange" to native speakers. Chinese ESL learners sometimes unnecessarily insert the definite article in their academic writing, producing just such unidiomatic patterns. Much of the previous research on this phenomenon has been limited to prompted tasks or narrative contexts, leaving a gap in the understanding of the-overuse that is particularly relevant to college-level ESL students. By compiling and analyzing data from the CEECUS corpus of Chinese ESL learners' English essays, this project demonstrates how language competence can be more fully measured without prompting subjects. Furthermore, it places the writing in an argumentative discourse style, removing it from a narrative context. Every common noun in the corpus was coded according to specific semantic, morphological, and discourse-status features, including the presence or absence of an article. Results indicate that generic and non-referential indefinite noun phrases are more likely than others to induce errors of the-overuse. Within these groups, additional features such as ambiguity and sentence position of the noun demonstrate effects on the rate of error. A confluence of factors may have contributed to the patterns observed: interference from the L1, previous classroom experience, the distribution of semantic and morphological features, and the argumentative context. Bringing these perspectives to pedagogy is essential to a Chinese ESL learner's accurate understanding of the definite article, and to their success in the argument-driven American educational system.

Table of Contents

1.0 INTRODUCTION........................................................................1

1.1 Narrative vs. Argumentative Styles.................................................5

1.2 The Articles.................................................................................7

1.3 Errors of Omission vs. Errors of Overuse........................................15

2.0 PREVIOUS RESEARCH ON ESL SPEAKERS' ARTICLE OVERUSE..18

2.1 Master.......................................................................................18

2.2 Ionin & Wexler............................................................................19

2.3 Liu & Gleason..............................................................................21

3.0 THE PRESENT STUDY: METHODOLOGY......................................24

4.0 RESULTS...................................................................................28

5.0 DISCUSSION.............................................................................34

6.0 IMPLICATIONS AND CONCLUSIONS..........................................44

6.1 Pedagogy....................................................................................44

6.2 Future Research...........................................................................49

REFERENCES...................................................................................50

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