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Auteur: Hortènsia CURELL

Expression of motion in English L2 by advanced foreign learners

Abstract/Résumé: According to Lardière (2007), advanced foreign learners can have achieved native-like competence in some areas, and show non-native behaviour in others. A case in point of the latter is the expression of motion in English by Catalan speakers. The population under study consists of 12 Catalan professors of English at Catalan universities, narrating the "frog story" (Slobin 1996). This paper is based both on Talmy's (1985, 1991, 2000) typological work on lexicalization patterns and Slobin's (1996, 1997, 2006) theory of thinking for speaking. Catalan is a verb-framed language, whereas English is satellite-framed. The most striking difference between the two types of languages is that in the former path is expressed by the verb, and in the latter it is expressed by an element associated with the verb. Moreover, the manner component can typically be conflated with the motion verb in S-framed languages, whereas in V-framed ones manner verbs can only be used when manner is foregrounded, but never in cross-boundary constructions (Aske 1989). Manner, if at all, is typically expressed by means of adjuncts. All this has consequences in various more general aspects of the expression of motion: a) amount of manner-of-motion verbs; b) path elaboration; c) description of location of protagonists; d) alternative expressions of manner. When these highly advanced learners narrate the frog story in English, they show a remarkable influence of their L1 in all these aspects. They use very few manner-of-motion verbs, compared to native speakers of English (Slobin 2005), and path elaboration is also much lower. On the other hand, the alternative expressions of manner are more varied, and the description of the location of the protagonists is more sophisticated, as in their L1. In other words, the learners devote much less attention to path and manner of motion than native speakers, and keep paying attention to factors important in their L1 (elaborated description of location of the protagonists and degree of variation of ways of expressing manner of motion). All this leads us to conclude that the influence of L1 in thinking for speaking in L2 is important in this specific area. Cadierno & Ruiz (2006), studying the acquisition of a V-framed language (Spanish) by speakers of an S-framed one (Danish), claim that there is no L1 influence. Putting their results and the present ones together, it seems to be more difficult for speakers of a V-framed language to learn S-framed constructions than the other way around.