University of Sussex
Schmidt-Renfree, Nicola.pdf (2.22 MB)

He done done or He’d undone? An investigation of second language listening processes with a particular focus on the processing of functional morphemes

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posted on 2023-06-09, 22:27 authored by Nicola Schmidt-RenfreeNicola Schmidt-Renfree
This thesis contributes to the research on people’s abilities to listen to English as their second language. Language teaching research has suggested that language learners are not taught effectively how to listen in their second language (L2) and there is, additionally, an assumption that language learners will naturally develop their listening skills as their level of proficiency increases. The thesis aimed to show that the latter may happen but that it frequently does not, and there are many competent second language communicators whose listening skills are under-developed. The thesis further aimed to investigate whether specific training methods could facilitate improvements in listening abilities. The thesis investigated listening at the level of morpho-syntax, focusing on listeners’ abilities to recognise co-articulated and weakly stressed function words and functional morphemes. Seven studies were devised to test whether L2 listeners with higher levels of English proficiency have a deficit in recognising functional morphemes when listening, and whether deficits affect listeners’ abilities to produce reconstructions of the surface form of spoken sentences they have heard. L2 listeners’ results were compared with the results of a number of L1 participants. Levels of accuracy were significantly lower for the L2 listeners, even for those whose language levels were categorised as proficient (CEFR low C2). In the final two of the seven studies, L2 case study participants received training which drew their attention to co-articulations and weak stresses in spoken sentences. Training also included attention to a complex grammatical structure which had previously proved problematic for the listeners to produce. Post-training tests showed that training had had a positive effect on the L2 listeners’ abilities to recognise function words, functional morphemes, and the relevant complex grammatical structure. Implications of the training were discussed in the wider context of second language acquisition, language teaching, and psycholinguistic research.


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  • eng


University of Sussex

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