Acquisition pace and developmental path of early second language learners of German. A longitudinal study on acquisition of morphosyntax and semantics

  • This thesis investigates the acquisition pace and the typical developmental path in eL2 acquisition of selected phenomena of German morphosyntax and semantics and compared them to monolingual acquisition. In addition, the influence of ‘Age of Onset’ and of external factors on eL2 acquisition is examined. To date, the most studies on eL2 acquisition focused on language production. Based on mostly longitudinal spontaneous speech data of only small number of children, they indicate that eL2 learners acquire sentence structure and subject-verb-agreement faster than monolingual children, whereas the acquisition of case marking causes them more difficulties. Moreover, similar developmental paths to those of monolingual children are claimed. Only several studies examined comprehension abilities in eL2 learners, however overwhelmingly in cross-sectional design. The findings from comprehension studies on telic and atelic verbs, and on wh-questions indicate that eL2 children acquire their target-like interpretation faster than monolingual children. The same acquisition stages towards target-like interpretation like in monolingual acquisition are assumed as well. Taking together, to date, no study exists, that examines comprehension and production abilities in a large group of eL2 learners of German in a longitudinal design. This thesis extends the previous results by investigating pace of acquisition, impact of factors, and individual developmental paths in a longitudinal design with large groups of participants. Language data of 29 eL2 learners of German (age at T1: 3;7 years, LoE: 10 months) and 45 monolingual German-speaking children (age at T1: 3;7) are examined. The eL2 learners were tested in six test rounds (age at T6: 6;9 years). The monolingual children were tested in five test rounds (are at T5: 5;7). The standardized test LiSe-DaZ (Schulz & Tracy, 2011) was employed to examine children’s language skills. eL2 learners show a significantly greater rate of change, thus faster acquisition pace, than monolingual children in the following scales: comprehension of telicity, comprehension of wh-questions, production of prepositions, and production of conjunctions. These phenomena are acquired early in monolingual children. No differences regarding acquisition pace between eL2 children and monolingual children are found for comprehension of negation, production of case marking, and production of focus particles. These phenomena are acquired late in monolingual development and involve semantic and pragmatic knowledge. The findings of faster acquisition pace of several phenomena are in line with several studies that reported that eL2 children develop faster than monolingual children. Independent on whether a phenomenon is acquired early or late, no effects of external factors on eL2 children’s performance are found. These findings indicate that acquisition of core, rule-based phenomena is not sensitive to external factors if the first exposure to L2 takes place around the age of three. Moreover, eL2 children show the same developmental stages and error types in comprehension of telicity, comprehension of negation, production of matrix and subordinate clauses. This is also independent on how fast they acquire a structure under consideration. Thus, these findings provide a further support for similar developmental paths of eL2 and monolingual children towards target-like comprehension and production.

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Author:Magdalena Wojtecka
Place of publication:Frankfurt am Main
Referee:Petra SchulzORCiDGND, Angela GrimmORCiDGND
Advisor:Petra Schulz
Document Type:Doctoral Thesis
Date of Publication (online):2020/10/09
Year of first Publication:2020
Publishing Institution:Universitätsbibliothek Johann Christian Senckenberg
Granting Institution:Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität
Date of final exam:2018/10/17
Release Date:2020/10/16
Tag:Erwerb der Satzstruktur; Verstehen; frühes Zweitspracherwerb
acquisition of sentence structure; comprehension; early second language acquisition
Page Number:329
Institutes:Neuere Philologien
Dewey Decimal Classification:4 Sprache / 41 Linguistik / 410 Linguistik
4 Sprache / 43 Deutsch, germanische Sprachen allgemein / 430 Germanische Sprachen; Deutsch
Licence (German):License LogoDeutsches Urheberrecht