The Use of English Articles in Adjective-modified Contexts

Abdulrahman Alzamil


English articles are thought to be complex, ambiguous and not salient in spoken language, which is why second language (L2) learners of English exhibit usage variability. Much of the L2 acquisition literature seems to agree that L2 learners are affected, one way or another, by their first language (L1). However, the debatable and controversial issue is whether there are other factors that affect article use, independent of potential L1 effects. The present study examines whether the presence or absence of adjectives in noun phrases influences article choice among Saudi Arabic learners of English. Both Arabic and English have articles, but Arabic adjectives are different from English adjectives to the extent that they agree with nouns in definiteness, case and gender. The study was conducted with 24 L1 Saudi Arabic speakers and 6 native English speakers. A 42-item fill-in-the-blanks task was administered. The results showed that a) native speakers of English outperformed L2 Arabic speakers in all contexts except indefinite plural contexts not modified by adjectives; and b) L2 Arabic speakers were more accurate in indefinite contexts that were not modified by adjectives than those that were. These findings show that L1 Arabic speakers are sensitive to the presence or absence of adjectives in noun phrases.


Adjectives, Arabic, Acquisition, Articles, Second Language

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