Acquisition of subject-verb agreement and word order by Nepali learners of English: The Bottleneck Hypothesis in L2 acquisition
AuthorBasnet, Lila Dhoaj
Abstract The thesis investigates Nepali L1 speakers’ knowledge of syntax and morphology in L2 English to test whether functional morphology is more difficult than syntax. Accordingly, the study mainly included two constructions: subject-verb agreement and word order. Subject-verb agreement was used to test knowledge of functional morphology while word order was used to test the knowledge about syntax. The experiment included a total of 48 participants from Nepal between the ages of 15-18 and was carried out in a private boarding school in Kathmandu. The experiment was based on an online survey tool, Survey Gizmo, which included an acceptability judgement test, a proficiency test and a background questionnaire. The experiment used acceptability judgement test as the main method to collect the required data. The main test included 46 test items in total, out of which 10 were fillers. The test included simple declarative main clauses with lexical verbs and all of them begin with DP subjects. Accordingly, subject-initial declarative sentence (in simple past tense) tested word order (syntax) while subject-verb agreement (functional morphology) was tested by subject-initial declarative sentence (simple present tense) with 3rd person singular and plural subject. In addition, the experiment included a subset of a Standardized Oxford Proficiency test which contains 40 multiple choice test items in order to examine the proficiency level of the participants along with a set of background questionnaires. The main findings reported in the study show that subject-verb agreement is significantly more difficult than word order in acquisition of English L2 by Nepali speakers. Furthermore, the results also show that subject-verb agreement is persistently difficult for the proficient learners too. In contrast, all the participants show good performance in word order which shows that there is not any correlation between proficiency score and word order. It also reveals that participants’ knowledge of word order is not related to proficiency score since all participants whether they have high proficiency score or not, are already good enough. On the other hand, a weak correlation between subject-verb agreement and proficiency scores suggests that the performance of the participants on agreement remains constant though proficiency scores increases.
PublisherUiT Norges arktiske universitet
UiT The Arctic University of Norway
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