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A Study Of Structural Priming Based On The Continuation Task-Evidence From Learners Of English In Senior High Schools

Posted on:2020-10-13Degree:MasterType:Thesis
Country:ChinaCandidate:Y LiFull Text:PDF
GTID:2415330572998521Subject:Subject teaching
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Structural priming refers that people tend to reuse the sentence structures they have used or processed before.It has been regarded as a tool to explore how the human cognitive system represents syntactic structures and how human learn and produce language.Since Bock had conducted the first study in 1986,the phenomenon of structural priming has been confirmed under a scientific experimental paradigm,and received widespread attention.Afterwards,new experimental paradigms have been developed,such as picture-description,sentence recall,confederate scripting,sentence-completion,etc.Through these experimental paradigms,researchers have revealed the characteristics of structural priming and proposed some models to explain it.However,due to the limitation of the experimental paradigms,target structures involved in structural priming are usually confined with passive and active voice,prepositional and double object structures,so that the ubiquity of structural priming has been questioned.In addition,Desmet & Declercq(2006)suggested that to investigate which syntactic structures are prone to priming is significant,while there was no available experimental paradigm.This paper introduces a new experimental paradigm,namely the continuation task.The continuation task is a teaching activity that combines reading and writing.Specifically,after reading an incomplete short story,students continue to write to make the story complete.The continuation task is in line with the key principle of the experimental paradigms of structural priming,and can contain various syntactic structures.This paper selects nine structures listed in the National English Curriculum Standard for General High School(2016)as the target structures,including passive voice,double object,prepositional object,present participle,object clause,attributive clause,adverbial clause,predicative clause and subject clause.With these target structures,this study aims to address the following four questions:(1)Which target structures are easy to be primed and which are not?(2)Are structural priming effects influenced by language proficiency?(3)What are the developmental features of English syntactic representations of Chinese students?(4)Does the continuation task help learners to produce target structures efficiently?To ensure the reliability of the results,the study collects data three times in total.For the first time,169 senior high students at grade two from a school in Chengdu serve as the research subjects.Taking the Oxford Quick Placement Test and the continuation task,163 valid data are obtained.For the second time,135 senior high students at grade take a different continuation task and the Oxford Quick Placement Test,128 valid data are obtained.For the third time,128 subjects take another different continuation task with little intervention.The paper adopts SPSS to analyze the data and draws conclusions to the research questions.For the first question,the research result demonstrates that subject clause,predicative clause and present participle are difficult to priming.While object clause,adverbial clause and attributive clause are easy to priming.This result shows some English learning difficulties for Chinese learners and confirms the importance of language transfer,in other words,those English structures which share similar structural patterns and conceptions with Chinese are prone to priming.For the second question,the paper divides the participants into two groups based on the Oxford Quick Placement Test.It demonstrates that structural priming effects are affected by language proficiency: high-level learners are more sensitive to structural priming than low-level learners.But during the process of scoring,the author found that some participants with high scores did not have a great tendency to reuse the target structures.Then,the author further divides the participants into three groups,namely low-level,middle-level,and advanced-level groups.The result shows that both low-level and advanced-level groups have a weak tendency to reuse target structures,while the participants at an intermediate level have the greatest priming effects.This is because the low-level participants have little awareness of target structures,and the advanced-level participants are more willing to compose on their own.Therefore,the two groups have weak priming effects.This paper believes that the syntactic representation of Chinese English learners is a dynamic process which develops from concrete language to abstract syntactic representation.And the higher the level of the target language,the farther it is from the first language representation.For low-level learners,they are heavily influenced by the syntactic representation of their first language,and they are difficult to extract structures of the target language.For advanced-level learners,they have already formed certain syntactic representation of the target language,so that they are prone to express thoughts based on their own knowledge.However,learners with an intermediate level who have the ability to abstract structures of the target language but without the ability to express thoughts freely tend to imitate.For the fourth question,the study confirms that the continuation task can facilitate the output of target structures,while teachers' help is important.The present study combines the continuation task with structural priming.On the one hand,it may provide a new experimental paradigm for structural priming and expand the research scope of it.On the other hand,it will provide some suggestions for English teaching.Teachers may use the continuation task to find out students' learning difficulties and to reinforce students' syntactic knowledge.Based on the research findings,knowing about the priming characteristics of low,middle and advanced-level learners is beneficial for teachers to better deal with teaching points.
Keywords/Search Tags:structural priming, the continuation task, priming difficulties, language proficiency, syntactic representations
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