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Time and Space in English and French discourse: implications for L2 acquisition Annie-Claude Demagny

Abstract : Many studies have shown that discourse determiners affect the distribution of information in narration, thus playing a role in the coherence and cohesion of discourse. Many studies in SLA have pointed out the difficulties faced by L2 learners in determining the way information is distributed on the sentence and discourse levels in the target language. We hypothesise that the way speakers express bounded and unbounded events in narration depends on the framing type of their language (Talmy 2000); we therefore assigned a task in which participants had to describe caused and voluntary motion. All participants were adults, speakers of L1 French (24), L1 English (24) and English learners of L2 French at three levels of proficiency (12 per group). All the learners (21-24-years-old) had been in France for at least two months and at most six months. The amount of L2 French instruction they received in their home country varied: level 1 (at least three years); level 2 (at least five years); level 3 (at least six years). This paper aims to 1) show how English and French native speakers distribute temporal and spatial information, 2) demonstrate the relations between the expression of Time and Space in both languages in the different parts of a narrative, and 3) show the development of various modes of expressing Time and Space in the acquisition of L2 French by adult English speakers. The findings show that each group has its own typical modes of expressing Time and Space in the different parts of the discourse. In L1 English, bounded events depend less on the type of Path than on the section of the narrative. In contrast, variability in L1 French depends on the type of Path. This difference has an impact on learner proficiency and its development. The typological restrictions found are due to both source and target languages, but learners also build an inter-language with idiosyncratic means. The restriction on the expression of temporal boundaries in the verb in French is not acquired and information is distributed in accordance with the L1. With increased proficiency, the verbal morphology evolves (passé composé decreases sharply) and new linguistic means become available to express multiple types of information in compact utterances. Reference: Talmy, L. (2000). Toward a Cognitive Semantics. Typology and process in concept structuring. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.
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Contributor : Annie-Claude Demagny <>
Submitted on : Monday, July 3, 2017 - 12:47:04 PM
Last modification on : Wednesday, April 28, 2021 - 9:28:51 PM


  • HAL Id : halshs-01552977, version 1


Annie-Claude Demagny. Time and Space in English and French discourse: implications for L2 acquisition Annie-Claude Demagny. Bilingualism vs. monolingualism: a new perspective on limitations to L2 acquisition, University of Toulouse (UT2), Mirail Campus, Jun 2017, Toulouse, France. ⟨halshs-01552977⟩



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