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Investigating the Production of L2 Inflectional Morphology Using a Picture Description Paradigm

By: , & Published: 2018 | Product: SAGE Research Methods Cases Part 2
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This case study takes the reader through the process of developing a picture description paradigm for a second language (L2) production experiment as part of a PhD thesis. The case looks at the various theoretical and practical challenges faced along the way and how they were dealt with. This included the presentation of stimuli, detailed instructions on the task, and the elicitation of production data. Later on, the case follows through the preliminary stages of coding and analysis, demonstrating how actual data collected from such paradigms could be used to explain theoretical questions in research. The experiment investigated the influence of temporal context and subject number on the production of temporal morphology among Mandarin speakers of English via a picture description paradigm. Temporal context was manipulated via calendar images and the use of temporal adverbials (yesterday, every day). In line with previous research findings, second language speakers were found to exhibit inflectional optionality (inconsistent production of inflectional markings). The findings revealed that the production of English temporal morphology by Mandarin speakers of English was strongly influenced by temporal context, as indicated by their sensitivity to temporal cues. Temporal context was a significant predictor of inflectional accuracy. Inflectional accuracy was also attributed to a strong influence of featural complexity, where a featurally more complex inflection (e.g., third person singular -s) was more problematic in production than a featurally less complex inflection (e.g., past tense –ed).

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