Variable Production of English Past Tense Marking by L1 Thai Learners: An Application of the Failed Functional Features Hypothesis (FFFH)

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Montira Khumdee
Nattama Pongpairoj

Abstract

In second language acquisition research, it is well-attested that production of functional morphology, e.g. tense and agreement, by L2 learners is variable. The present study examined whether variability exists in production of English past tense marking by L1 Thai speakers. It was hypothesized that variable use of English past tense marking would be observed and that the phenomenon can be accounted for by the Failed Functional Features Hypothesis (FFFH) (e.g. Franceschina, 2001; Hawkins & Chan, 1997; Hawkins & Liszka, 2003), but not by the Missing Surface Inflection Hypothesis (MSIH) (e.g., Lardiere, 1998; Prévost & White, 2000; White, 2003). Three tests, namely Grammaticality Judgment Test, Cloze Test, and Story-telling, were administered to 40 L1 Thai learners: 20 intermediate and 20 advanced learners. The results showed that L1 Thai speakers exhibited variability in their production of English past tense marking across the three tests. Additionally, an asymmetric rate of suppliance of past tense marking was observed. It was found that regular verbs were past-marked less frequently than irregular verbs by both proficiency groups. The suppliance rate of English past tense marking by the two L1 Thai proficiency groups was also higher when adverbial phrases of time indicating pastness were present. The low suppliances of past morphemes including both the representation and the production tasks, and the asymmetric phenomena confirmed the two hypotheses, hence, supporting the FFFH but confounding the MSIH.

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Author Biographies

Montira Khumdee

Montira Khumdee received a bachelor’s degree in English from the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Mahasarakham University and an MA in English from the Faculty of Arts, Chulalongkorn University. Currently, she is a lecturer at the Department of English, the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Rajabhat Maha Sarakham University. Her academic areas of interest include second language acquisition, interlanguage analysis and syntax.

Nattama Pongpairoj

Nattama Pongpairoj received her B.A. (English) (first-class honors) from Chulalongkorn University, M.A. (Linguistics) from the University of Oregon, and Ph.D. (Linguistics) from the University of York.  She is currently an Associate Professor in the Department of English, Faculty of Arts, Chulalongkorn University. Her research interests include interlanguage and L2 acquisition of functional morphology.

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