Is that different from the?

Quek Soh Theng, Bee Eng Wong

Abstract


English is a language with overt morphological representations of articles. On the other hand, Malay and Mandarin Chinese have none. In Malaysia, pupils are exposed to English articles as early as four years old. Despite early exposure, articles, or the definite article the specifically, appear to be a marked grammatical property for Chinese-speaking and Malay-speaking learners, two languages without articles. Based on the Fluctuation Hypothesis and Article Choice Parameter, this study seeks to investigate and compare the role of first language (L1) transfer on the article acquisition of the 77 L1 Chinese and 116 L1 Malay ESL learners, who were teacher trainees recruited from three teachers’ training institutes in Malaysia. The respondents were tested utilising a production task and a comprehension task. The statistical analyses of the participants’ performance revealed that only the advanced and intermediate groups of both L1 Chinese and L1 Malay ESL learners registered clear distinctions between the usage in the ‘Unique and salient’ and ‘Unique and non-salient’ categories and that usage in the ‘Non-unique’ category. The high accuracy rates suggest that L1 lexical transfer contributed to the positive performance by the ESL learners. The advanced and intermediate L1 Chinese and L1 Malay learners continuously interpreted the singular definite descriptions as referring to uniquely immediate salient entities similar to the demonstrative descriptions, making interpretations of the and that seemed similar.


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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5296/jse.v10i3.15158

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