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An analysis of the role of first language in second language acquisition
Ionescu, Ioana Daciana
xvii, 271 pages : illustrations
The impact of first language (L1) on nine prominent second language acquisition (SLA) theories has garnered broad attention in recent years. One topic of interest is to what extent are language identity and culture of English second language (ESL) college learners intertwined. Extensive research has been directed toward understanding the influence of writing instruction on written discourse whereas far less attention, and hence the focus of this research, has been allotted to how L1 affects metadiscourse, miscues, and hedging in writing in a second language. English writing assignments of 141 culturally- and linguistically-diverse ESL college students enrolled in a "Linguistics Department" composition course at San Diego State University (SDSU) from 2010-12 were analyzed. This effort was augmented by conducting written interviews with six Linguistics professors who have taught ESL composition classes. Findings provided insights into (1) the role of L1 in acquiring written literacy skills in L2 English as perceived through nine SLA theories; (2) the writing capabilities expected of ESL college students from the perspective of the six linguistic professors; (3) the metadiscourse variations occurring within steps of two genre types (Summary of a Commentary, Statement of Purpose); (4) the significant differences among language groups in the use of article and subject-verb agreement miscues; (5) the connection between linguistic discourse and ethnic culture employed by ESL students in written assignments through the lens of hedging (e.g. modal auxiliaries, non-factive reporting and tentative linking verbs), a valued trait in self-expression for ESL students. Dispersion plots for sixty L1 Spanish students revealed usage patterns. The study revealed challenges faced by Linguistics professors due to the diversity of the academic goals, interests, and writing purposes among ESL college students. The findings suggested various pedagogical implications comprising the Linguistic professors' advocacy of their students by using L1 as a bridge for transferring schema to L2, providing specific genre knowledge and reinforcing the writer and audience connection. This study contributes to an understanding of SLA and the incremental process in mastering L2 writing skills as well as the mosaic of the influences of L1 and culture in developing biliteracy.
San Diego State University
Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) Claremont Graduate University and San Diego State University, 2014
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