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A Narrative Perspective on The Development of The Tense/Aspect System in Second Language Acquisition

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  07 November 2008

Kathleen Bardovi-Harlig
Affiliation:
Indiana University

Abstract

A number of studies on the acquisition of tense and aspect by learners of a second language point to the hypothesis that narrative structure influences the distribution of tense/aspect forms in interlanguage. However, the studies have reported conflicting profiles of tense/aspect use. This study suggests that much of the variation that has been previously reported stems from the level of proficiency of the learners. This crosssectional study examines 37 written and oral narrative pairs produced in a film retell task by adult learners of English as a second language. The analysis approaches the texts from two perspectives, from the perspective of acquisition, taking narrative structure (specifically grounding) as an environment for acquisition of tense/aspect, and from the perspective of the narrative itself, characterizing the foreground and background by the tense/aspect forms used. The study finds a developmental pattern in the distribution of tense/aspect morphology with respect to narrative structure. These results permit the assimilation of earlier findings into a developmental sequence in the acquisition of the tense/aspect system.

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Articles
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995

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