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Acquisition of «be» by Cantonese ESL Learners in Hong Kong- and its Pedagogical Implications

Mable Chan

The present study examines grammaticality judgment data, production data and acceptability judgment data from 243 Cantonese second language learners and a control group of 12 native English speakers. Research areas concern (a) the role of the first language in the acquisition of be by Cantonese second language learners; (b) the question if properties associated with be remain persistently problematic for Cantonese speakers; (c) developmental stages of the acquisition of be; (d) the relationship between morphology and syntax; and (e) pedagogical implications.
No published L2 research has attempted an in-depth theoretical and empirical treatment of both acquisition and teaching subject matters in one single work. This work helps bridge the gap between acquisition theory and language pedagogy research, benefitting not just language learners but language teachers around the world, and all those who would like to witness a collaboration between second language acquisition theory and second language teaching practice in general.
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Chapter 3 Literature Review

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3.1Introduction

Much discussion of the status of be in the interlanguage grammars of L2 speakers can be found in studies interested in determining the sequence of the acquisition of the English grammatical morphemes (e.g. -ing, -s, be, -ed, etc.). It has generally been found in these studies that L2 learners from different L1 backgrounds produce grammatical morphemes in speech with similar frequency, the frequency of suppliance of be typically being the greatest, and the frequency of suppliance of copula be usually being greater than frequency of suppliance of auxiliary be. Later studies specifically about the acquisition of forms of be have shown that it can be used in non-target-like ways by L2 learners, including being overgeneralized to contexts where it would not be used by native speakers, being omitted and being substituted by other forms.

In this chapter, the early grammatical morpheme studies and the acquisition problems posed by be will be examined. Based on these studies of be, the central problems it poses in SLA can be identified, and specific research questions proposed.

3.2Summary of L2 morpheme studies

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