Academic journal article Sign Language Studies

Longitudinal L3 Acquisition of American Sign Language Motion Verbs: A Case Study of Changes and Persistencies in Prior Language Influence

Academic journal article Sign Language Studies

Longitudinal L3 Acquisition of American Sign Language Motion Verbs: A Case Study of Changes and Persistencies in Prior Language Influence

Article excerpt

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When learning a third language (L3), learners, according to researchers, tend to rely on their prior linguistic knowledge, be it from their first language (Li), their second language (L2), or their third language. Studies have identified a number of factors that influ- ence the learners' choice of the source of prior knowledge. However, the findings were generated from largely cross-sectional studies with a limited time frame. Consequently, little is known about how the factors may interact over time. As a learner attempts to use an L3, it is likely that the Li, L2, and L3 may undergo a change in the extent to which they influence the L3.

The present study, which focuses on a single L3 ASL learner, referred to here as LZ, investigates this possibility by examining the learner's production, over a period of nine months, of motion verbs and the word orders of their argument structures with goal prepositional phrases. These motion verbs are go and walk. This article first describes the motion verbs, their argument structures with goal prepositional phrases, and word orders in ASL, Japanese, and English (LZ knows the latter two). This is followed by a review of studies on L3 acquisition and cross-linguistic influence. Predictions are made with regard to the sources that shape the L3 production of ASL motion verbs, their goal PP argument structures, and word orders over time. Results of this study are then presented, and signed productions by the L3 ASL learner are assessed for changes in prior languages as sources. The article ends with a discussion of theoretical implications for the L3 acquisition of motion verb forms and their goal PP argument structures and word orders.

Background

Motion Verbs, Their Argument Structures, and Word Orders

Motion Verb Forms. Individuals who are learning an L3 motion verb system simultaneously deal with two things: the conceptual and the linguistic formulations of motion in the L3. Motion is conceptualized as a movement of an entity acting as a figure in a ground or with regard to a landmark. Motion verbs are lexical items that refer to types of movement and encode information about their path and manner. Path is the direction of the movement. Manner refers to the way in which the motion is performed. As previously mentioned, this study focuses on two motion verbs: go and walk.

The learning of foreign language motion verbs requires mastery of its cultural system of motion. Cultures, through their languages, vary in the conceptual, semantic relationships between motion, space, and temporality and in the linguistic, syntactic forms that link movement, manner, and path. The linguistic expression of motion verbs is a function of cultural notions of motion and its manner and path. Languages exhibit three classes of motion verb systems: framing motion verb system, satellite motion verb system, and truncated motion verb system.

A framing verb system encodes motion with path but not manner. The morphology of these languages (e.g., spoken Japanese) mark motion with path and use a separate morphology for manner. Examples are ©SŽ (no bo ru) ("go upstairs") and joDS (o ri ru) ("go downstairs"). Manner is encoded as an adverb.

A satellite verb system encodes motion with manner but not with path. The morphology of these languages (e.g., spoken English) mark motion with manner and use a separate morphology for path. Examples are "run upstairs" and "run downstairs," in which "run" is the manner of "going," and "upstairs" and "downstairs" are the directions of the movement. To mark direction, path is expressed as a particle and/or a locative.

Other languages (e.g., ASL) utilize a truncated verb system, which is a combination of the satellite and the framing motion verb systems. In ASL, motion verbs are called "depicting verbs" (Dudis 2004; Liddell 2003), in that they depict the entity, its movement, and the manner and path of the movement. …

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