Plural Marking in Spoken and Written Narratives: A Corpus-based Study of Japanese Learners of English

Yumiko Yamaguchi, Hiroko Usami


This paper aims to present the results of a learner corpus study on spoken and written narratives by Japanese learners of English using Processability Theory (PT) (Pienemann, 1998). PT assumes that there is a universal hierarchy of second language (L2) development and many studies (e.g., Di Biase, Kawaguchi, & Yamaguchi, 2015; Pienemann, 1998) have shown support for PT stages for English L2. However, few PT studies have addressed the issues of whether learners use linguistic structures in the same way in spoken and written tasks. The current study focuses on learners’ use of plural marking on nouns, since contradictory results have been reported for the developmental sequence of lexical plural -s and phrasal plural -s (Charters, Dao, & Jansen, 2011). The participants in this study comprised 291 university students learning in English programs in Japanese universities. Each of them performed spoken and written narratives using a picture book titled Frog, where are you? (Mayer, 1969) containing 24 wordless pictures. The learner corpus including both 291 audio-recorded and transcribed spoken narratives and 291 written narratives was compiled. The results of the analyses showed a connection between learners’ use of plural marker -s in speaking and that in writing, while a small number of students were found to perform differently in two different tasks. Moreover, this study demonstrated support for the developmental sequence of lexical and phrasal plural marking predicted in PT.



English plural marking, learner corpus, Processability Theory, speaking, writing, narratives

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