L2 development of -ing clauses: A longitudinal study of Norwegian learners
Hildegunn Dirdal (ILOS)
The English morpheme -ing features in many studies of progressive marking (e.g. Housen 2002, Robison 1990 and 1995, Rocca 2007, Rohde 1996), but other uses of -ing have received less attention and have usually been investigated in cross-sectional studies (Granger 1997, Biber and Reppen 1998, Tizón-Couto 2014). The present study focuses on the development of -ing clauses in L2 English by L1 Norwegian learners, building on a recent pseudo-longitudinal study by Wold (2017), who finds minimal use of -ing outside finite contexts among 11-year-olds and widespread use among 15-year-olds. A closer look at the use of -ing according to proficiency level reveals a path from no use outside finite contexts (A1 level), via a few uses after aspectual verbs (A2 level 11-year-olds), increased use after perception verbs and in adverbial functions (A2 level 15-year-olds), and finally an equal proportion of progressive and non-progressive uses (B level 15-year-olds). However, more knowledge is needed about the longitudinal development and the use of different types of -ing clauses.
The data for this study come from TRAWL: a longitudinal corpus of written texts from Norwegian school children, currently under construction. I use a combination of longitudinal case study of five pupils for whom we have data from four years (years 8–11) and a quasi-longitudinal study of texts from years 6–10 to answer the following questions:
- Are there common stages in the development and use of -ing clauses?
- Are there individual differences in the paths taken?
- Can L1 influence be detected?
Following a usage-based and cognitive perspective, multiple factors are assumed to influence L2 learning, making distinct individual paths possible. However, similar educational practices and properties of the English language itself may lead to Norwegian learners showing evidence of common stages, possibly also based on their particular L1 background. Norwegian verbal nouns in -ing cannot project clauses, and present participle (V-ende/-ande) clauses are severely restricted compared to English -ing clauses (Dirdal 2017).
Results from both the quasi-longitudinal and the truly longitudinal study seem to confirm Wold’s finding that -ing clauses appear after the learners have started using -ing to mark the progressive. However, they have not necessarily mastered the form of the progressive before starting to use -ing clauses. Some students start using -ing clauses while still using bare -ing forms in finite contexts. The earliest uses of -ing clauses are as complements, particularly to catenatives, but also to other verbs, and to nouns and adjectives. Adjuncts and adnominal -ing clauses appear later, and subject -ing clauses are rare even in the later years. Individual differences are mainly related to pace, but there might also be differences in the order in which augmented and unaugmented adjuncts appear, and in the route to the use of adnominal -ing clauses. At no stage do the learners seem to restrict their use of -ing clauses in a way that mirrors the syntactic functions, semantic roles or internal syntax of Norwegian present participle clauses.
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