English articles are known to be very difficult for L2 English learners whose L1 does not possess articles. Previous research found that the misuse of the and a by article-less L1 speakers partly stemmed from learners confusing the concepts of 'specificity' and 'definiteness' (Ionin, Ko, & Wexler, 2004). The current study investigated: (1) whether 149 speakers of L1 Japanese, an article-less language, would choose articles based on 'definiteness' or on 'specificity'; and (2) how their L2 proficiency was related to their correct use of L2 English articles. These questions were examined on their accuracy of article use and also their certainty about their article use. The results showed that 'definiteness,' 'proficiency,' a combined effect of 'definiteness and proficiency,' and another combined effect of 'definiteness and specificity' had significant effects on accuracy and certainty of their article use, but 'specificity' alone did not affect their accuracy and certainty significantly in their choice of articles. Also it was found that the participants performed worse when polarities of 'definiteness' and 'specificity' did not match than when the polarities did match. From these results, it was concluded that L1 Japanese speakers, like L1 Korean and L1 Russian speakers in Ionin et al.'s (2004) study, did confuse 'definiteness' and 'specificity' and that this affected their use of L2 English articles.
Selected Proceedings of the 2011 Second Language Research Forum: Converging Theory and Practice
edited by Erik Voss, Shu-Ju Diana Tai, and Zhi Li
Table of contents