Capstone/Dissertation Title

Patterns of Article Use in the Expository Writing of Spanish-Speaking Adult Learners of English

Term

Fall 12-10-2014

Capstone

Thesis

Degree Name

MAESL

Primary Advisor/Dissertation Chair

Bonnie Swierzbin

Secondary Advisor/Reader One

Andreas Schramm

Peer-Reviewer/Reader Two

Matthew Killam

Abstract

The research question addressed is how do adult English learners use articles in academic writing? Motivated by classroom observations of Spanish-speaking learners’ difficulties acquiring the English article system, this study applies the discourse pragmatic framework of the Givenness Hierarchy (GH) to examine how learners use articles in expository writing. Seven participants responded to three expository writing prompts and article use was analyzed according to the GH. Both intermediate and advanced learners exhibited similar patterns of use for the definite, indefinite, and zero articles, while null article usage patterns diverged. GH-based target-like use analysis of the indefinite and definite articles revealed that intermediate and advanced learners showed greater accuracy with the definite article than with the indefinite article. Writing tasks were related to variability in eliciting some articles, especially the null article. Implications are discussed and the results are placed within the context of existing research on second language article acquisition.

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