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Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, Inc.

(TESOL)
The Acquisition of Grammatical Morphemes by Adult ESL Students
Author(s): Diane E. Larsen Freeman
Source: TESOL Quarterly, Vol. 9, No. 4 (Dec., 1975), pp. 409-419
Published by: Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, Inc. (TESOL)
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TESOL
Quarterly
Vol. 9, No. 4
December 1975
The
Acquisition of
Grammatical
Morphemes
by
Adult ESL Students*
Diane E. Larsen Freeman
This
study
was
designed
to determine if the
reported sequence
of
acqui-
sition of
grammatical morphemes
for second
language
learners
(Dulay
and
Burt, 1973, 1974; Bailey,
Madden and
Krashen, 1974)
would be
found to exist in tasks other than that
requiring speech production.
A
battery
of five tasks:
reading, writing, listening, imitating
and
speaking
were administered to
twenty-four
adult ESL learners, six from each of
four
native-language backgrounds (Arabic, Japanese, Persian,
and
Span-
ish).
After
scoring
for
morpheme suppliance
in
obligatory contexts,
and
using
the
Group
Score Method
(Dulay
and
Burt,
1974)
to order the
morphemes,
a
high
level of concordance was found across
language groups
with
regards
to
morpheme ordering
within task. There
was, however,
individual and
language group variability apparent.
When
comparing
morpheme sequencing
across tasks for all
subjects,
there was not the
same
high degree
of
relationship. Speculations
are made to account for
these
findings.
Introduction
A claim that has
captured
much attention from second
language acqui-
sition researchers is that the second
language learners, regardless
of native
language background, acquire
certain
English grammatical morphemes
in
the same or a similar
sequence.
The
impetus
for the research which resulted in this claim
originated
in the first
language acquisition
studies of Brown
(1973)
and his
colleagues.
After
conducting
a
longitudinal study
of three children
acquiring
English
as
their native
language,
these researchers
reported
there existed a
develop-
mental
sequence
of fourteen
morphemes
which was
"amazingly
constant
across these three
unacquainted
American children"
(1973: 272).
The
sequence
was revealed
by
a
procedure
where the
morphemes
were scored for
their
suppliance
in
obligatory
contexts
(See Brown,
1973: 255 for a dis-
cussion of this
construct).
Following
this
highly significant longitudinal report,
deVilliers and
deVilliers
(1973), colleagues
of Brown at
Harvard,
undertook a cross-
sectional
study
on the use of these fourteen
morphemes
in
obligatory
con-
texts in
early
child
speech.
The deVilliers'
subjects
were 21
English-
speaking
children
aged
between 16 and 40 months.
They reported
"a
high
*
This
paper
was
presented
at the 1975 TESOL Convention in Los
Angeles,
Cal-
ifornia.
Ms.
Freeman,
Assistant Professor at
UCLA,
received her doctorate from the Uni-
versity
of
Michigan
in 1975. An article
by
her
appeared
in On TESOL 74.
409
TESOL QUARTERLY
degree
of
correspondence
between the
orderings
found in the
present study
and the
ordering reported by
Brown"
(272).
It was
Dulay
and Burt
(1973), who, adopting
Brown's
procedure
and
a subset of his
morphemes,
first
attempted
to find such an order for children
learning English
as a second
language. Using
an instrument
they
devised
to elicit natural
spontaneous speech
data
(the Bilingual Syntax
Measure-
Burt, Dulay
and Hernandez
1973) Dulay
and Burt obtained results in a
study
of 151
Spanish-speaking subjects
which
prompted
their claim for
the existence of "a common order of
acquisition"
for the
eight grammatical
morphemes they
had
investigated (1973: 256).
Since the
ordering they
found was not the one Brown and the deVilliers
reported, Dulay
and Burt
explained
that their own
subjects (aged 5-8)
were
older than those
previously
studied and "more
sophisticated
with
respect
to
cognitive
and
conceptual development" (1973: 252); therefore,
a different
order was not
unexpected.
The
subjects
for
Dulay
and Burt's
study
were from three
geographically
separate areas,
but all were
Spanish-speaking
children
learning English
as
a second
language.
In an
attempt
to
strengthen
their contention that it is
the L2
system
and not the L1
system
that
guides
the
acquisition process,
Dulay
and Burt
(1974) compared
Chinese and
Spanish-speaking
children's
acquisition
order for eleven
English morphemes produced
in natural
speech
as elicited
by
the same instrument-the
Bilingual Syntax
Measure
(here-
after referred to as the
BSM). They
concluded "the
sequences
of
acquisi-
tion of 11 functors
[morphemes]
obtained for
Spanish
and Chinese children
are
virtually
the same"
(49).
It was this evidence that
produced
the
following questions
which resulted
in the
present study:
1. Would this same
acquisition
order of
morphemes,
or
indeed, any
acquisition
order be exhibited
by
adult ESL learners?
2. Would this
acquisition
order be found to exist if different data collec-
tion
procedures
were
employed?
3. Would the data from other collection
procedures
be useful in
helping
to
explain
the
morpheme ordering
the BSM
consistently
elicits?
After the
present study
was
begun,
it was learned that an
attempt
was
being
made to answer the first
question.
Bailey,
Madden and Krashen
(1974)
administered the BSM to
seventy-
three adult ESL students with
varying
native
language backgrounds.
Uti-
lizing Dulay
and Burt's
scoring procedure
and
scoring
for the
morphemes
Dulay
and Burt had
reported
on in their 1973
study, Bailey,
Madden and
Krashen found
significant product-moment
correlation with the
sequences
of two of
Dulay
and Burt's three
Spanish-speaking groups
and
significant
Spearman
rank correlations with all three
groups.
Since their
subjects
were
adults,
most of whom had
experienced
some
ESL
instruction,
we were left with even a
stronger
conclusion: that an
410
ACQUISITION OF MORPHEMES
acquisition
order of certain
morphemes
elicited
by
an instrument
requiring
natural
speech
exists for second
language
learners of
English, regardless
of
age,
amount of ESL instruction
(at
least as
experienced by
these
subjects),
type
of ESL instruction or
native-language background.
Since
Bailey,
Madden and Krashen used the
BSM,
the other
questions
remained unresolved, i.e.,
whether or not the data collection
procedure
would
affect the order of
acquisition,
and whether data from other collection
pro-
cedures would have
explanatory power
in
revealing
the basis for the BSM
morpheme sequence.
This
study
addresses itself to their resolution.
Procedure
SUBJECTS
Twenty-four adult students enrolled in an intensive
English program
at
the
English Language
Institute of the
University
of
Michigan
were selected
as
subjects
for this
study.
Four
language backgrounds: Arabic, Japanese,
Persian and
Spanish
were
represented
by
six
subjects
each. The
subjects
in each of the four
groups
were matched in abilities as determined
by
their
scores on a standard
placement
examination.
They
were all considered to be
at an
elementary
level of
English ability,
and the
study
was conducted at the
very
beginning
of the course before
any language
instruction had taken
place.
MORPHEMES
Ten of the eleven structures studied
by Dulay
and Burt
(1974)
were
included here:
progressive "ing," progressive auxiliary,
short
plural, long
plural (es), third
person regular present
tense
singular, regular past, irreg-
ular
past, possessive (NP's),
third
person present
tense
singular copula
and
article
(definite
"the" and indefinite
"a").
The
eleventh,
case
markers,
was
eliminated as there had been a
question
raised as to whether it was mean-
ingful
to consider case in a
morpheme study. Furthermore,
since case
appeared
in the first
position
in the
acquisition sequence,
it was felt that
the elimination of it would not affect the established order of the others.
All
allomorphs
of each of the ten
morphemes (with
the
exception
of the
past
tense
irregular)
which
Dulay
and Burt studied were included.
DATA COLLECTION PROCEDURES
Four data collection
procedures (tasks)
were
developed
and administered
to the
subjects, along
with a
fifth,
the
BSM,
which was used for
purposes of
comparability.
The tasks each involved a
particular
skill:
reading, writing,
listening, imitating
and
speaking.
These five distinct tasks were structured with the
hope
that the data
they
would
yield
would
provide
clues in the search for an
explanation
for the
morpheme
ordering previously reported.
If the same
morpheme
order
resulted from all five
tasks,
we would know to look for an
explanation
for
411
TESOL QUARTERLY
this common order in terms of the
underlying complexity
of the
morphemes
-not how
they
are learned
through
the exercise of a
particular skill,
nor
how
they
are manifested
through
a
particular modality.
For
example,
pronunciation difficulty
could
probably
be obviated as the cause of the
morpheme sequence
attested to
by previous
researchers if the same order
was
produced through application
of a
graphic skill,
such as the
writing
task in this
study
would necessitate.
Certainly
the five tasks involve different
cognitive requirements,
but the
underlying syntactic
and semantic feature
complexity
of the
morphemes
should be invariant across all modalities.
COMPOSITION OF TASKS
The BSM was
developed
for use with
children,
but it
appeared
to work
well in
Bailey,
Madden and Krashen's
study
and here as well. The instru-
ment consists of seven color cartoons and
corresponding questions designed
to elicit utterances which contain the desired
morphemes.
The
transcripts
of the
subjects'
utterances are scored
using
a
ternary system.
The
subject
receives two
points
if a
morpheme
is
supplied
in its correct form in an
obligatory
context. If the context calls for a
morpheme
to be
produced
and none is
supplied,
the
subject
receives a zero. If a
morpheme
is
supplied,
but in an incorrect
form,
a score of one is
given.
In the interest of com-
parability,
this
scoring
schema was maintained in all five tasks.
Thus,
the
listening
task consisted of
showing
the
subjects
a
picture
which
provided
a
context,
and
reading
to them three sentences
describing
the
picture.
The sentences differed so that one contained the correct
morpheme,
one contained no
morpheme
and the other contained an incorrect form of
the
morpheme.
There were five items like this for each of the ten
morphemes
for a total
of
fifty questions.
In
addition,
there were seven other
questions interspersed
among
the
fifty
which were best answered
by
the choice of the sentence not
containing
the
morpheme being
examined. These
questions
were included
so that a
discriminating subject
could not deduce that a
non-morpheme
answer was
always
incorrect.
Furthermore, questions
like these would allow
the scorer to see if the
subjects
were
overgeneralizing
the use of
particular
morphemes.
For
example,
in the
following pair:
a. He can
sing very
well.
b. He can
sings very
well.
if a
subject
chose
(b)
he
might
be
overgeneralizing
the third
person singular
morpheme.
A
subject
could
get
each of the five other
questions per
mor-
pheme
correct and
yet incorrectly
choose that
morpheme
where it was
superfluous
in one of the seven
questions
because he had not
yet
learned the
boundaries of the semantic domain or
syntactic application
of a
particular
morpheme.
412
ACQUISITION OF MORPHEMES
The distractors contained
morphemes
which were
inappropriate
because
of their failure to
agree
in
number, tense, definite/indefiniteness
or form
with what was called for in the context created
by
the
picture.
Careful instructions were
given
and two
examples
were tried
by
all so
there was an
understanding
of the task to be
performed.
In the
reading
task the
subjects
were
given
a
copy
of a
story
in which
every
sentence or sentence
fragment appeared
in three forms-with the
morpheme correctly supplied,
with the
morpheme missing
and with the
morpheme supplied incorrectly.
The
subjects
were instructed to read the
story
and mark down next to each
group
of three sentences an
A, B,
or C
corresponding
to the form
they
believed to be
appropriate.
Once
again
there were
fifty-seven questions,
five for each of the ten
morphemes
and
seven
questions
where the correct answer was the sentence without the
morpheme.
With few
exceptions,
the
vocabulary
of the
story
was taken from the
Thomdike-Lorge (1944)
count of the 500 most common words.
Moreover,
a
synopsis
was
given
to the
subjects
in advance of the task to minimize
any
interfering
factors caused
by
a
subject's misconstruing
a
vocabulary
item.
The distractors for this task were not
only
the result of structural or
agreement
errors as
they
were in the
listening task;
for in this task two out
of
every
five
questions
for each
morpheme
had discourse or contextual dis-
tractors-sentences that were
legitimate English sentences,
but which were
not
acceptable
in the context of the
story.
For
example,
the first sentence of the
story
was:
a. I have a friend whose name is Mark Andrews.
b. I have the friend whose name is Mark Andrews.
c. I have friend whose name Mark Andrews.
A reasonable sentence in
English
would be
(b), using
the definite
article,
but it is not
acceptable
in this context as
(a),
the answer with the in-
definite
article,
is.
Use of a
story
rather than a series of isolated sentences was decided
upon
to determine if it was the failure to
apply
the discourse rules of
English
rather than the forms of the
morphemes
themselves which caused the
morphemes
to be ranked as
reported.
Once
again,
careful instructions were
given
and two
examples
were
pro-
vided to insure an
understanding
of the task.
The same
story
as the one in the
reading
task was used for the
writing
task.
However,
in the
writing
task
version,
blank
spaces replaced
the alter-
native
morpheme
answers and the
subjects
were asked to write in the
correct
morpheme
or draw a line
through
the blank if
they
felt no
morpheme
was warranted. When a bound
morpheme
was
required,
the stem to which
it was to be attached was
provided
in
parentheses preceding
the blank.
Use of the same
story
for both the
reading
and
writing
tasks would
make it
possible
to note if the
commonality
of items on the two tasks
413
TESOL
QUARTERLY
resulted in a
higher
correlation for the
morpheme sequences they produced
than when either the
reading
or
writing sequence
was
compared
with the
one from
any
other task.
An elicited imitation data collection
procedure
was the fifth task. Six-
teen sentences were constructed
containing ninety-one
total occurrences
of the
morphemes
under
study.
A
picture
was shown to a
subject
to
engender
a context for
every
sentence
(a procedure suggested by
Rodd and
Braine,
1971).
The
experimenter
read the sentence and the
subject
was to
repeat
the sentence. The sentences were constructed of sufficient
length
to dis-
courage subjects repeating by
rote. Naiman's
(1974) finding
that model
French sentences of fifteen
syllables
in
length
worked best for imitation
by
children and
subsequent pilot testing
from this
study
resulted in the
decision to make each sentence 14-18
syllables long.
The
positions
of each
morpheme
were
arranged
so that each
allomorph appeared
at least once in
the
beginning
of a sentence
(approximately syllables 1-6), medially (ap-
proximately syllables 7-12)
and
finally (approximately syllables 13-18).
ADMINISTRATION
The
reading, writing
and
listening
tasks were administered to
groups
of
subjects.
From the total of
twenty-four subjects,
two
groups
were
randomly
formed and each was
presented
the three tasks in a different order to control
for a
task-ordering
or
practice
effect. Half the
subjects, then,
received the
reading
task first,
then the
listening
task and then the
writing
task. The
other
group
had this order reversed. The
listening
task was
always given
medially
because the
story
for the
reading
and
writing
tasks was identical
and it was therefore desirable to
separate
them.
The
listening
task was
taped
so that each
group
received identical
input
and so that the time allotted each
question
was fixed.
The other two
tasks,
the BSM and the elicited imitation
task,
were
administered to each
subject individually.
Half the
subjects
were
given
the
elicited imitation task first and the BSM second. The other half had this
order reversed. The
responses
were
taped
on a Uher 4000 IC
tape
recorder
for later
scoring.
SCORING AND STATISTICAL PROCEDURES
The task results were scored
using
the
ternary
schema outlined above.
This
system
was
applied
to the use or
recognition
of
morphemes
in
obligatory
contexts. The
Group
Score Method
(Dulay
and Burt
1974)
was used to
determine a rank for each
morpheme.
The ten
morphemes
in each task
were ordered
according
to
decreasing
rank.
Kendall's coefficients of concordance and
Spearman
rank correlation co-
efficients were
computed among language groups
for each task.
Spearman
rank correlation coefficients were determined
among
tasks for
all
subjects.
414
ACQUISITION
OF MORPHEMES
Results
In four of the five
tasks,
concordance was
high (the reading
task was
the
exception) among language groups
with
regards
to
morpheme ordering
(significant
at the .01 level for four of the five
tasks). Language background
did not seem to
radically
affect
performance
in
morpheme ordering.
However,
even
though
there was
language group
task concordance for
the four
tasks,
Spearman
rank correlation coefficients between two
language
groups
often were not
significant
within each task with the
exception
of
the BSM where each of the six
possible pairings
of
language groups
were
significant
at the .01 level.
(This
was based on a
comparison
of
only
9
morphemes
because the number of
obligatory
occasions
requiring
the use of
the
past regular morpheme
in this task was too low for it to be ordered
with the
others.)
See Table 1.
TABLE 1
Spearman
Rank Correlation Coefficients Across
Language Groups
for
Speaking
Task
Arabic 1.0000
Japanese
.8815' 1.0000
Persian .8333a .9662' 1.0000
Spanish
.9167' .8984' .9167* 1.0000
Arabic
Japanese
Persian
Spanish
P
<
.01
The
imitating
and
writing
tasks had the next
highest
number of
sig-
nificantly
correlated
pairs
of
language groups,
but most of these were at the
.05 level of
significance.
See Tables 2 and 3.
TABLE 2
Spearman
Rank Correlation Coefficients Across
Language Groups
for
Imitating
Task
Arabic 1.0000
Japanese
.7212b 1.0000
Persian .5714b .5046 1.0000
Spanish
.8909a .6606b .6687b 1.0000
Arabic
Japanese
Persian
Spanish
a
P
<
.01
b p
<.05
TABLE 3
Spearman
Rank Correlation Coefficients Across
Language Groups
for
Writing
Task
Arabic 1.0000
Japanese
.7212b 1.0000
Persian .6079b .5046 1.0000
Spanish
.6261b .4802 .6982b 1.0000
Arabic
Japanese Persian
Spanish
bP
<
.05
The
listening
and
reading
tasks each had one
pair reaching
statistical
significance
at the .05 level. See Tables 4 and 5.
415
TESOL QUARTERLY
TABLE 4
Spearman
Rank Correlation Coefficients Across
Language Groups
for
Listening
Task
Arabic 1.0000
Japanese
.4303 1.0000
Persian .3283 .5471 1.0000
Spanish
.5046 .5957b .4512 1.0000
Arabic
Japanese
Persian
Spanish
bP
<.05
TABLE 5
Spearman
Rank Correlation Coefficients Across
Language Groups
for
Reading
Task
Arabic 1 .0000
Japanese
-.1758 1.0000
Persian .5758b -.1636 1.0000
Spanish
.5167 .0790 .1945 1.0000
Arabic
Japanese
Persian
Spanish
bP
<
.05
Since the BSM had
produced higher Spearman
rank correlation coeffi-
cients than the other
tasks,
the
question
arose as to whether or not the BSM
was a more reliable measure of
morpheme ordering
than the other four
tasks.
An
analysis
of variance was
performed
on all five task results to see
how much of the total variance was attributable to
subject
differences and
how much to
morpheme
differences. With the
exception
of the
reading task,
the
reliability
of the measures for
determining
differences
among morpheme
difficulties were
comparable.
TABLE 6
Reliability
of Tasks for
Determining
Differences
Among Morphemes
Speaking Imitating Writing Listening Reading
.927 .919 .872 .906 .679
Thus,
in
measuring
differences across
morphemes,
the BSM is
clearly
more reliable than one of the other tasks-the
reading.
This seems to be due
to the fact that the
reading
task is a more reliable instrument for ascertain-
ing subject
differences than
morpheme
differences. The
subjects perform
well
on all the
morphemes, so, by
and
large,
most of the variance is accounted
for
by
differences between
individuals,
not between
morphemes.
It is
perhaps
more reliable than another-the
writing-but
it is
certainly
not more reliable than the other two.
Indeed, except
in the cast of the
reading task,
the other tasks in this
study
should be as reliable as the BSM
in
measuring morpheme
differences.
Spearman
rank correlation coefficients were next
computed
for rank
orders of
morphemes
across tasks for all
subjects.
With the
comparison
of
ordering
on one task with another
task,
few
statistically significant
cor-
relations were found. See Table 7.
416
ACQUISITION
OF MORPHEMES
TABLE 7
Spearman
Rank Correlation Coefficients Across Tasks for All
Subjects
Writing
1.0000
Listening
.4545 1.0000
Imitating
.2848 .1394 1.0000
Reading
.7234b .0973 .0790 1.0000
Speaking
.5879b .4667 .5879b .1641 1.0000
Writing Listening Imitating Reading Speaking
bP
<.05
There are three
significant relationships
that exist: the BSM and the
imitating
task correlate with a rho of .58 which is
just significant
at the
.05 level and there is a rho of .58 between the BSM and the
writing
task
as well. The
reading
and
writing
tasks are also correlated at the .05 level
of
significance
with a rho of .72. This leaves us with the
intriguing question
of whether it is the
medium, i.e.,
the
printed word,
which
produced
the
similar
ordering
on the
reading
and
writing
tasks or whether it was the
commonality
of the
material, i.e.,
the same
story,
or the time allotted the
subjects
to
respond
on these two tasks which can be held accountable for
the
similarity
of
morpheme ordering.
Thus,
there is some
consistency
in
morpheme ranking
across
tasks,
but
the
morpheme orderings
are
by
no means the same on all tasks.
As
expected,
the BSM
ordering
from this
study
and the
ordering Dulay
and Burt
(1974)
found correlate
highly
at the .01 level of
significance,
rho
=
.87. The
imitating
task
ordering
also correlates with the order found
by Dulay
and Burt at the .05 level of
significance,
rho
=
.60. The
morpheme
orderings
the other three tasks
produced
have low correlations with that
of
Dulay
and Burt's
study,
none of them
reaching significance.
What has been
reported
here are the results of the first
phase
of this
study.
The
battery
of tasks will be readministered to the same
subjects
after
allowing
for a two month hiatus
during
which the
subjects
are
undergoing
intensive
English
instruction. The results of this second
phase
will be examined to see if the instruction
during
the
intervening period
will
have had
any
effect on the
ordering
found in the intial
phase.
At this
point, however,
there are several
general
conclusions which
can be drawn.
Conclusions
1. It became
apparent
that the notion of "invariance" used
by
first
language acquisition
researchers
investigating morpheme acquisition (Brown
1973:272;
deVilliers and deVilliers
1973:268)
was not
appropriate
when
describing
the
sequences
obtained in this second
language acquisition study.
There was
variability apparent
when
comparing
the
performance
of in-
dividual
subjects
and when
comparing
the
morpheme orderings produced
by
each of the
language groups.
This
variability among language groups
was evident from the number of
non-significant Spearman
rank correlation
417
TESOL QUARTERLY
coefficients between the
morpheme orderings
of
any
two
language groups
on
several of the tasks
(See
Tables
1-5).
A contrastive
analysis
was undertaken and it was learned that when
a
particular language group
deviated from the
generally agreed upon
rank
assigned
a
given morpheme,
this deviation could
usually
be
explained by
examining the
expression
of that
morpheme
in the native
language
of
the deviant
group.
It should be noted that Hakuta
(1974),
who collected natural
speech
samples
from a
five-year-old Japanese girl learning ESL,
did not find the
same
ordering
as
Dulay
and Burt did for their children
subjects
nor as
this
study
did
using
the BSM with adults.
However,
for the
eight morphemes
which this
study
and Hakuta's had in common, there was a
statistically
significant
correlation coefficient found between the
ordering
Hakuta's
subject produced
and the
ordering
found in this
study
for
Japanese
adults
(rho
=
.79,
p
< .05).
2.
Nevertheless, despite
some evidence of individual and
language group
variability,
there were
significantly high
coefficients of concordance
pro-
duced
among
the
language groups
on tasks within this
study.
Native
language background
does not seem to
radically
influence the
way
in which
learners order
English morphemes.
Then, too,
the BSM seems to elicit a
very
similar order of
morphemes,
not
only
for learners from different native
language backgrounds,
but for
learners of different
ages
and
exposure
to ESL instruction.
3. A common
difficulty
order
(a
term I
prefer
to
"acquisition" order)
does not seem to occur for all the skill areas tested here. There
is,
never-
theless,
some
consistency
in the
ranking
of certain
morphemes
across all
five tasks. It is
premature
to attribute the different orders to one
source,
as
they may
be due to
modality differences, specific
task
effects,
skill
differences,
etc.
4. At this
point
we can at least eliminate
possible explanations
for the
continued elicitation of a certain order of
morphemes by
the BSM.
It would seem we would want to
put
aside for the moment
looking
for
an
explanation
for the
productive
speaking
order as
being
determined
by
cognitive maturity,
affective
variables,
or in an order of
presentation
in
formal instruction since we
get
similar
orderings
when these are varied.
Furthermore,
since the same
underlying
semantic and
syntactic
com-
plexity
should be characteristic or both the
long
and short
plural morphemes,
and
yet they
are not ranked
sequentially (ranked
9 and
6, respectively),
syntactic
and semantic
complexity too,
should not receive a
great
deal of
attention in our search for an
explanation
for the
production speaking
ordering.
An
explanation in
underlying phonological representation
or
pronunci-
ation
difficulty, too,
is
lacking
since
allomorphs
of some
morphemes
like the
third
person singular present tense,
the
regular
short
plural
and the
posses-
418
ACQUISITION
OF MORPHEMES
sive all share a common
phonological
form and
yet occupy disparate
ranks
in the
productive speaking
order.
What is
remaining?
Since we have eliminated
subject
variables because
of the
diversity among
learner
types
and have eliminated
deep
structure
semantic, syntactic
and
phonological complexity
as
well,
it would seem we
should look to the surface form for
possible
clues.
Although admittedly
the amount and
type
of
English input might vary
according
to situation, there are
probably
stable factors that would be
cogent
for all
learners-frequency
of occurrence is a
possible
contender. The
possessive morpheme
was
repeatedly among
the lowest ranked
morphemes
in all the tasks in this
study.
One
might speculate
this is because of its
relative
infrequency
in
usage by
native
speakers.
Features of
perceptual saliency
in
language
such as
stress, segmentation,
vowel reduction and
position might
also be
contributing
factors in the
pro-
duction of a
difficulty ordering.
Since some of these factors would not be
manifested the same
way
in all the
tasks,
this would
help
to
explain
the
different
orderings
across tasks.
A
single explanation
seems insufficient to account for the
findings.
It is
now
necessary
to return to the data collected in this
study
and others for a
more exhaustive
analysis
in
light
of these
speculation?
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R. 1973. A
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M.
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H. C.
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419