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La Référence au passé dans le dialogue: Étude de l’acquisition de la temporalité chez des apprenants dits avancés de français
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of French, Italian and Classical Languages.
1998 (French)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The present thesis is a study of past time reference by Swedish university students in interaction with a native speaker of French. Most previous studies in the field of language acquisition have focussed on learners at early stages of acquisition. It is less known how adult, qualified learners use a second language. This study aims at, through the description of the form and function of verbs with past reference, establishing what characterizes advanced learners at different levels.

The considerable individual variation found in advanced learner language is an often mentioned factor. However, the relationship between the level of acquisition and this factor has not, thus far, been explicitly examined. In order to distinguish features of individual variation from features characterizing different acquisitional levels, the production of four learners from the InterFra project were chosen for this study. These learners differed with respect to their competence level and interactional style. The learners' use of tense and aspect in 18 interviews, recorded regularly during four university terms, was systematically compared with that of four native speakers. They were interviewed on the same topics by the same native speaker of French as the learners. From the 5746 finite verbs in these interviews, 1210 forms carrying past time reference were coded according to various temporal/semantic factors: the semantic features inherent in the verb (Aktionsart), perfect or aoriste function of le passé composé, the contextual aspectual values of l'imparfait, the use of a base form and the marking of the temporal relations between the events spoken about.

As a result of the analyses, 26 features were singled out as indicative of competence level, irrespective of indivual variation. A general tendency in the data was that production of tense forms preceded mastery of semantic function. This was especially clear in the case of l'imparfait, which was limited to a small number of verb types and to a limited range of aspectual values, in comparison to native French. The learners preferred l'imparfait for situations where the actual time of the event was completely overlapping with the time spoken about.

Despite the systematic morphological marking of past time reference by the learners, in the context of stative verbs, they retracted to the use of a non-target like base form. This form typically occurred when two points of time in the past were involved.

On a more general level, the capacity to mark temporal moves between the events spoken about was found to be a decisive variable, which separated the most advanced learners from the least advanced, and the learners from the native speakers. In the native data, and, to a lesser degree, in the highest acquisitional level, the marking of temporal moves in the past were frequent. The less advanced learners relied more on the interlocutor's time anchoring. On the other hand, temporal movement between "now" and "then" was often marked by a few temporal adverbs, especially maintenant (= now). These were frequently used by the learners. Since the native speakers did not use these adverbs, it is suggested that the learners' first language, where a past event is morphologically marked as linked either to the moment of speech (perfekt) or to a definite time in the past (preteritum), could account for this strategy.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholms universitet, Institutionen för franska och italienska , 1998. , 277 p.
Forskningsrapporter / Stockholms universitet, Institutionen för franska och italienska: cahiers de la recherche, ISSN 1654-1294 ; 6
Keyword [en]
language learning, qualified learners, advanced stages of acquisition, individual variation, spoken French, interaction scaffolding, tense and aspect, past time reference, imparfait, perfect, aoriste, Aktionsart, aspectual values, temporal movement, discourse cohesion
National Category
Specific Languages
Research subject
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-9757ISBN: 91-7153-783-XOAI: diva2:176276
Public defence
1998-06-12, Hörsal 11, hus F, 10:00 (French)
Available from: 2009-02-27 Created: 2007-11-21 Last updated: 2009-12-16Bibliographically approved

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