Investigating the acquisition of the German passive by adult learners with L1 English in a formal learning environment : a learner corpus approach
Thoday, Sheena Caroline Elizabeth
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This cross-disciplinary study draws on theories of linguistics, second language acquisition and language pedagogy in order to investigate the acquisition of the German passive by learners in a formal learning environment whose first language is English. This construction has hitherto received little attention from researchers, possibly because of the complexity of the available means of expressing it. The study focuses on the two periphrastic syntactic alternatives, each of which has a different semantic interpretation. With the general aim of identifying patterns in the learners’ usage of the construction over time, both synchronically and diachronically-collected data are assembled in a learner corpus and examined in a multi-method, multi-level study which differs from the single case study approach to language acquisition investigations which has often prevailed in the past. A quantitative, electronically-driven analysis is followed by a qualitative, judgement-based commentary. A comparative analysis of data from native speakers of German adds a further dimension to the discussion. Results of the analyses indicate differences between the written production of the two research populations and variation in the sequence of development and usage of the two German passives in the formal learning context which, it is suggested, may in part be due to the role played by instruction.