Can L2 learners learn new ways to conceptualise events? Evidence from motion event construal among English-speaking learners of French
Treffers-Daller, J. and Tidball, F. (2015) Can L2 learners learn new ways to conceptualise events? Evidence from motion event construal among English-speaking learners of French. In: Guijarro-Fuentes, P., Schmitz, K. and Müller, N. (eds.) The acquisition of French in multi-lingual contexts. Multilingual Matters, Bristol, pp. 145-184. ISBN 9781783094523
This study tests Slobin’s (1996) claim that L2 learners struggle with conceptual restructuring in L2 acquisition. We suggest that learners can find themselves in four different reconceptualisation scenarios: the TRANSFER, RESTRUCTURING, CREATIVE/HYBRID and CONVERGENCE SCENARIOS. To test this proposal in the field of event conceptualisation, a comprehensive analysis was made of the frequency distribution of path, manner, caused motion and deictic verbs in narratives elicited from intermediate (N=20) and advanced learners (N=21) of French, as well as native speakers of French (N=23) and English (N=30). The productions of the intermediate level learners were found to correspond to the creative/hybrid scenario because they differed significantly in their motion expressions from English as well as French native speakers, except for path, which was verbalised in target-like ways early on. Advanced learners were found to be able to reconceptualise motion in the L2, as far as manner and path are concerned, but continued to struggle with deictic verbs and caused motion. The clearest evidence for transfer from the L1 was found in verbalisations among intermediate level learners of events which involved a boundary crossing.