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ERIC Number: ED554524
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2012
Pages: 160
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: N/A
ISBN: 978-1-3032-2845-2
Second Language Acquisition of Reflexive Verbs in Russian by L1 Speakers of English
Alexieva, Petia Dimitrova
ProQuest LLC, Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Chicago
This dissertation examines the process of acquisition of semantic classes of reflexive verbs (RVs) in Russian by L2 learners with a native language English. The purpose of this study is to bridge the gap between current linguistic knowledge and the pedagogical literature existing in English on reflexives in Russian. RVs are taught partially and unsystematically and a comparison with native speaker data shows that while at the advanced level L2 learners start approximating the target language RV system, they do not develop the full system. The study examines RV usage in essays written by L2 learners and a control group of native speakers (NSs), as well as data from current studies on the frequency usage of RV types in Russian. The results show that L2 learners are not attuned to the type and token frequencies of RVs as native speakers are, they do not display the same lexical diversity as NSs and do not use the RV derivational models as productively as NSs. Decausative RVs, for instance, are one the most frequently used derived types of RVs in Russian but are used twice as little by L2 learners. Some semantic classes like metonymical and quasi-passive RVs are not used at all in the L2 data. The study considers several factors, which have been proven significant for L2 learning: the internal factors of L1 transfer and universal hierarchies, and the external factors of instructional and natural input. Instructional input appeared as the single most significant factor for L2 acquisition of reflexive verbs in Russian. While there is room for positive transfer, because RVs in English are functionally, but not formally, equivalent to the main types of RVs in the system of Russian, the learners' innate knowledge ought to be triggered by a structured explanation of the similarities between the two RV systems. The reciprocal meaning of the reflexive suffix-sja in Russian, for instance, has a functional equivalent in the English reciprocal pronouns each other, one another. This similarity is explicitly taught to novice and intermediate learners and they start using the suffix productively with that function. The examples of learner-created reciprocal verbs show that functional and not necessarily formal equivalence can facilitate L2 acquisition. In such instances L1 positive transfer is accelerated by explicit instruction. The data suggests that learners develop an understanding of the semantic functions of the reflexive suffix in Russian and supports one of the main claims of this study, namely, that RVs should be taught as a system of semantic classes and not as individual items. Recently available quantitative research of RV usage in Russian should be considered to help focus instructional materials and teaching on the types learners are not using or using to a considerably smaller extent than NSs. [The dissertation citations contained here are published with the permission of ProQuest LLC. Further reproduction is prohibited without permission. Copies of dissertations may be obtained by Telephone (800) 1-800-521-0600. Web page:]
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Publication Type: Dissertations/Theses - Doctoral Dissertations
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A