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Acquisition of impersonal constructions in L2 Russian.

By O. (Olga) Kudeykina


In this study I want to investigate and analyze the process of acquisition of L2 Russian on the example of the acquisition of impersonal sentences: (1) Mamu pozdravlayut. Mother (ACC) congratulate (3pl). 'Mother is congratulated.' (2) Mama pozdravlyayet papu. Mother(NOM) congratulate(3d sg, PRESENT) father(ACC). 'Mother congratulates father.' The choice of this type of sentences is defined by its complexity and its closeness in pragmatic sense to passive constructions. The object is propagated to the subject position but it still keeps accusative case marking and it is followed by a verb in plural form which pronoun is dropped. Logical stress in the sentences falls on the verb which means that verb conveys new information, it is the focus of the sentence; and the 1st NP carries old information. Acquisition of such constructions and ability to produce target-like sentences requires a lot of grammatical and pragmatic development of L2 of the learner. The learner should be able to distinguish between case marking and its role in syntactic marking of the sentence elements, to understand pragmatic choice of word order in Russian and to realize the process of mapping the arguments to their function in the sentence. For my research I have chosen to work within the framework of (Extended) Processability Theory (PT) developed by M. Pienemann (1998). According to PT any language develops gradually and the process can be divided into levels which reflects actually the development of inner language 3 processor. PT states that any utterance of the language requires a set of processing procedures. These procedures define the complexity of the utterance and reflect the level of the learners' interlanguage development. Processing procedures are language-specific and they form a hierarchy. A hierarchy of processing procedures is based on LFG grammar. LFG, as a grammatical formalism, provides a clear view on the internal structure of any utterance. According to LFG in any language construction we can observe three levels or three parallel structures: constituent structure, functional structure and argument structure. Constituent structure is mapped to functional structure via the process of feature unification. And argument structure is mapped onto functional structure which means that semantic roles are mapped onto their grammatical functions. All three levels and the mappings from level to level are very important for the explanation of SLA :they define the level of the interlanguage development. In order to process language at high speed, the speaker is required to store grammatical information about parts of the sentence s/he produces in short term memory. Depending on the availability of particular processing procedures, the learner can unify this grammatical information at different levels of constituents. This process of unification is necessary because the output in language production is linear but mental processes of language production are not. (Pienemann, 1998:54) The hierarchy of processing procedures is implicational: ever lower level in the hierarchy is the prerequisite for the higher one. Extended PT offers an approach that allows to explain a wider range of linguistic phenomena: passives, causative and topicalisation. The Extended PT has adopted the Lexical Mapping theory in order to be able to explain the mapping of arguments onto functional structure. Each argument role can be expressed in different grammatical forms. At lower levels of L2 development the learners tend to stick to linear mapping of arguments onto functional structure because it costs less in means of processing procedures. Once the level of 4 the learner's L2 development increases the linear mapping can be substituted by non-linear mappings which allow the learner to produce passives and other complex constructions. This research aims to answer the following set of questions: 1.How does the PT hierarchy of Russian L2 look like?How many levels does it have and which procedures correspond to which level? 2. At what level of language IL development the learners of L2 Russian will be able to produce and to comprehend IMP constructions? What are the prerequisites for comprehension and production of these constructions? Methodology. For building a hierarchy of Russian L2 processing procedures I use LFG formalism. Starting from single lemmas and words and going to phrases and then sentences I build the repository of grammar rules and lexical features which reflect the work of inner processor. Then to each level of language development I assign a set f procedures which are to be acquired. The hierarchy is tested on the L2 Russian spoken data. The data is collected during the interviews with the participants of the research. All the interviews are recorder and evaluated. Participants are offered a set of tests: profiling test and tests on the comprehension and production of impersonal constructions. As a result I expect to get for every participants his/her level of interlanguage development and results for comprehension and production tests. These data will allow me to find the correspondence between the level of language development and ability to comprehend and produce impersonal constructions, and to analyze the process of Russian L2 acquisition. This research contributes to the studies of cross-linguistic aspects of PT and its plausibility for typologically different languages. PT only once has been applied for the study of development of Serbian nominal structures by the speakers of Serbian in Australia (Medojevic, 2009). So this will be the first attempt to account for a wide range of syntactic- 5 pragmatic procedures in L2 Russian as Slavic language. The study of the acquisition of impersonal constructions contributes to the understanding of L2 Russian syntax and its acquisition by the learners. It also allows to understand the underlying principles of language processing by L2 learners and to create an effective methods of teaching Russian as a foreign language.

Year: 2010
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