Linguistic and sociolinguistic development in L2 speaking: a comparison between Chinese ESL learners in different learning contexts

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Mu, Di
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University College Cork
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The aim of this longitudinal comparative study is to examine the impact of learning contexts on second language learners' linguistic and sociolinguistic development in speaking. To achieve this purpose, comparisons were made between the learning outcomes of two groups of Chinese ESL (English as a Second Language) learners studying in a SA (study abroad) or an AH (at home) learning environment over a three-month period. Specifically, the learning outcomes were assessed through linguistic development measured by grammatical accuracy and syntactic complexity in spoken English as well as sociolinguistic development measured by three indicators, namely -ing/in alternation, -t/d deletion, and use of contractions in spoken English. In addition, the quantitative correlations between the learners' linguistic and sociolinguistic development as well as between their linguistic/sociolinguistic development and different types of influencing factors (individual, contextual, stylistic, and linguistic) were explored in order to further analyze and compare the similarities and differences between the learners in the two learning contexts. A total of 16 SA learners and 10 AH learners participated in the research and completed pre-interview questionnaires, sociolinguistic interviews and reading aloud tasks at the beginning and end of the three-month study. By analyzing the data collected from the three instruments, this study provided answers to the four research questions. For the first question regarding linguistic development, it was found that neither group of learners made statistically significant progress over three months, but the comparison between the two groups at different time points showed that the AH context was overall more favorable to the acquisition of grammatical accuracy, and the SA context was generally more beneficial to the acquisition syntactic complexity. Similar results were obtained for the second question concerning sociolinguistic development—no statistically significant progress was observed in both groups over the three-month period, but the comparison between the two groups at the two time points indicated that the SA context in general provided greater benefits to the acquisition of -ing/in alternation in conversation and -t/d deletion in reading, as compared to the AH context. The third question explored the quantitative correlation between linguistic and sociolinguistic development. The findings revealed that the correlation between linguistic and sociolinguistic development was relatively low for learners in the SA group, while relatively high for learners in the AH group, suggesting that the SA learners’ sociolinguistic development was more independent than the AH learners. The last question examined the quantitative correlations between linguistic/sociolinguistic development and four types of influencing factors. The results suggested that all four types of factors, i.e. gender, contextual factors, speech style, and linguistic factors, exerted some extent of influence on L2 learners’ linguistic or sociolinguistic development, although the degree of influence varied between the two groups and/or between the different indicators. Despite some limitations, this study provided some pedagogical implications and suggestions for L2 acquisition researchers, university language learners and university language teachers.
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L2 acquisition , Linguistic development , Sociolinguistic development , Learning environment
Mu, D. 2023. Linguistic and sociolinguistic development in L2 speaking: a comparison between Chinese ESL learners in different learning contexts. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.
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