The Use of English Relative Constructions by Japanese Learners in Written Language

By Megumi Okugiri.

Published by The International Journal of Literacies

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This study examines the production of English relative constructions by Japanese learners in terms of semantic and discoursal properties. English relative constructions of Japanese learners and native speakers of English were extracted from a written corpus: the Nagoya Interlanguage Corpus of English (Sugiura 2008). This study examines the data according to the levels of the learners’ English proficiency and investigates the information status (New, Given, and Identifiable) (Chafe 1974), animacy status of the head noun phrases (Animate, Concrete Inanimate, and Abstract Inanimate) (Ming and Chen 2010), and head types (intransitive subject, transitive subject, object, oblique, main clause, noun phrase and predicate noun phrase). The results show (1) different patterns of relative constructions between Japanese learners and native speakers of English and different patterns depending on the learners’ proficiency; (2) that intransitive subject relative clause was the most frequent regardless of the animacy status; (3) that the native speakers and the advanced learners tended to produce the relative constructions when the heads are New in general English discourse, while the less advanced learners tended to produce English relative constructions according to the preference of Japanese information status; (4) that the high-intermediate learners showed a strong tendency to produce relative constructions when they modified human referents; and (5) that the learners produced relative clauses to introduce New referents into the discourse. This study demonstrates that the semantic and discoursal information affect the mechanisms of the L2 acquisition of the relative constructions in written language.

Keywords: English Relative Constructions, Relative Clause, Animacy, Information Status,, Written Corpus, Discourse, Second Language Acquisition, Production

The International Journal of Literacies, Volume 19, Issue 3, pp.13-24. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 581.507KB).

Dr. Megumi Okugiri

Associate Professor, Postgraduate School, Tokyo Healthcare University, Setagaya, Setagaya-Ward, Japan

Dr. Megumi Okugiri is a professor at Tokyo Healthcare University, teaching academic English writing to graduate and undergraduate students. She received her MA in English from the Department of English, the University of Milwaukee-Wisconsin, and another MA and PhD in Linguistics from the Department of Language and Information Sciences, the University of Tokyo. Her recent interest has been the acquisition of various English constructions by Japanese learners in discourse. This paper was presented at the 19th Annual Conference on Learning in London, UK.