The Acquisition of Argument Structure Alternations by Vietnamese Learners of English

PhD Thesis

Chau, Dung Duc. 2022. The Acquisition of Argument Structure Alternations by Vietnamese Learners of English. PhD Thesis Doctor of Philosophy. University of Southern Queensland.

The Acquisition of Argument Structure Alternations by Vietnamese Learners of English

TypePhD Thesis
AuthorChau, Dung Duc
1. FirstProf Shirley O'Neill
2. SecondDr Chris Dann
Institution of OriginUniversity of Southern Queensland
Qualification NameDoctor of Philosophy
Number of Pages315
PublisherUniversity of Southern Queensland
Place of PublicationAustralia
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

This thesis investigated the acquisition of argument structure alternations, namely the dative alternation, the benefactive alternation, and the locative alternation, by Vietnamese learners of English. The population sample involved 72 adult participants divided into 2 groups: an experimental group of 36 Vietnamese learners of English and a control group of 36 native English speakers used as a benchmark for cross-group comparisons. The language learners were categorised into an upper-intermediate group built on their Michigan test scores. To be qualified for the study, all learners had to pass a Word-Meaning Matching Task.

The first experiment examined the acquisition of the DA with respect to nativelike competence, markedness, and the morphological constraint. The findings suggested that the learners were found to achieve native-like grammar regarding all dative structures except illicit DODCs. The other constraints such as markedness, L1 transfer, and the morphological constraint were recognised to accommodate the findings. The learners' performance was in agreement with the case assignment (Stowell, 1981), Schachter's (1992) Transfer Hypothesis, the FT-FA Hypothesis (Schwartz & Sprouse, 1996), the learning input, or syntactic overgeneralisations.

The second experiment dealt with the acquisition of the BA. The pooled data from the two groups showed that the learners obtained native-like performance with respect to benefactive structures, excluding the licit DOBCs. The markedness constraint was found to have a great influence on the learners' judgments of the benefactive in which the PBCs were judged significantly better than the DOBCs. This constraint was supported by the FT-FA Hypothesis, the Transfer Hypothesis, and case assignment. Also, L1 ratings were found to have a substantial influence on both syntactic patterns of Verb Type 2. As for the morphological constraint, unlike the first experiment, the illicit DOBCs were rated at higher levels of acceptability than the licit DOBCs. This asymmetry of the DOBCs was expounded by semantic verb classes, the learners' input, FT-FA Hypothesis, as well as overgeneralisations. In respect to the relationship between the dative and benefactive alternations, while the asymmetries of the PDCs and PBCs were proved by the positive transfer, the asymmetries of the DODCs and DOBCs had their roots in the preposition transfer and semantic features.

The last experiment looked at the LA with reference to language competence, language transfer, and knowledge of locative structures. The findings disclosed that the learners attained native-like performance on Type 2 FOCs and Type 3 GOCs. Nevertheless, they could not distinguish the three verb classes, that is, alternating class, figure class, and ground class. The FT-FA Hypothesis validated this acquisition. Plus, the NRRs and overgeneralisations also exerted an influence on the learners' incomplete acquisition of locative structures.

KeywordsSecond language acquisition, argument structure alternations, dative alternations, benefactive alternations, locative alternations, language transfer
ANZSRC Field of Research 2020470499. Linguistics not elsewhere classified
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Byline AffiliationsSchool of Education
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