|dc.description.abstract||The purpose of this study was to research the language performance
in written English of first and second language users of English to gain
an insight into their language competence. Hunt's T units, validated by
researchers as sensitive and discriminating between different racial
groups, were used to measure syntactic maturity quantitatively. Two tests
were made and analyzed as Hunt set out in Syntactic Maturity in School
Children and Adults. One was a controlled passage, comprising 34 kernel
sentences to be rewritten "in a better way", the other a free writing
passage, the stimulus sentence being "I'll never forget the time when...."
A vocabulary test was also administered as a ranking device. Research
had shown that vocabulary tests measure verbal ability, and are relatively
The objectives of the study were:
1. to determine the nature of the differences in the use of
English by groups of students for whom English is a first language and
those for whom English is a second language. It was hypothesized that
subjects for whom English is a second language would score lower on the
two measures of syntactic maturity being used than subjects for whom
English is a first language.
2. to determine for each of the four groups if there is a correlation
between scores on the two syntactic maturity measures based on
the different approaches -- the controlled passage and the free writing
sample. It was hypothesized that there would be a positive correlation between these two.
3. to determine for each of the four groups if there is a correlation
between scores on a vocabulary test and scores on the two syntactic
measures. It was hypothesized that there would be a positive correlation.
4. to determine for each of the four groups if there is a correlation
between the number of words a student used in the controlled passage
and the number of words he wrote in the free writing passage. It
was hypothesized there would be a negative correlation.
5. to determine for each of the four groups if there is a correlation
between the number of words in the controlled passage and the
ratios of syntactic maturity, and between the number of words in the free
writing passage and the ratios of syntactic maturity. It was hypothesized
that there would be a positive correlation in the free writing passage.
The population comprised:
1. grade 11 and 12 Canadian Indian students whose first language
is Blackfoot and Canadian students whose first language is English, from
a small town in southern Alberta. For brevity, they will be referred to
as Blackfoot and Canadian respectively.
2. form six black Rhodesian students whose first language is
Shona, from a school in Mashonaland and white Rhodesians whose first language
is English from a school in Salisbury. For brevity, they will be
referred to as Shona and Rhodesian respectively.
The study found no consistent trend in the analysis of the syntactic
structures used by second language speakers when compared with their
compatriots who speak English as a first language. The Blackfoot scored
significantly higher than the Canadians on two measures of syntactic
maturity in the free writing passage, showing that they used longer T
units in a free situation. Canadians however score significantly higher
in one category in the controlled passage, showing that in a situation
where precision was required they produced longer clauses than the
Blackfoot. In the case of the Rhodesian/Shena set, the Rhodesians scored
significantly higher in five categories, indicating a trend for these
first language users to show more syntactic maturity, as measured by
Hunt's five ratios, than their Shona speaking compatriots.
The tests to show whether the controlled passage and free writing
passage measured the same thing were inconclusive. The correlation
between scores was slight; the correlation between ranking on scores was
Tests made to see if there was a correlation between ability in a
vocabulary test and syntactic maturity as shown on Hunt's five ratios
showed there was little relationship between these two elements of language.
Length of the controlled passage and length of the free writing
passage correlated negatively, suggesting that a student who writes compactly
in the controlled passage was able to relax and expand his syntactic
register in the free writing passage. Alternately, a student who was
unable to be compact in the controlled passage was also unable to relax
and expand his syntactic register in the free writing passage. This was backed up by the correlation between length and syntactic maturity ratios.
From these findings several conclusions were drawn. The study
showed that the syntax of second language users does not differ greatly
from that of first language users. The research has shown language to be
a problem for second language users. Possibly the measures of language
performance used in this study are not really a reflection of language
competence. A study of the oral comprehension of students whose mother
tongue is not English should be made. Particularly at grades 11, 12 and
university levels, stress is on oral comprehension of lecture material
in specific subject areas. It is important to determine difficulties
these students have with both oral and written language.
The vocabulary test failed to discriminate fairly between the
capabilities of individuals. It is possible that this test, or another
test, might produce a higher correlation between vocabulary scores and a
conventional evaluation of each individual's work; or between vocabulary
scores and a syntactic analysis that includes qualitative components.
Quality, as well as quantity, needs to be considered in measuring
the syntax of grade 11 and 12s. Hunt finds students who write long clauses
and T units to be more syntactically mature, without regard for the
quality of the writing. This was shown to be an important omission at
this level. Variety and flexibility also have a part in the production
of good syntax.
Curriculum and methodology should include the study of literature
and the student's own writings as lessons in stylistics. Literature of
high quality, judiciously introduced, would enrich and extend students'
experiences with words, ideas, style. Hunt's quantitative measures of syntax could be used along with quantitative analysis to identify the
specifics of mature writing. Through this process students' own writing
should improve stylistically.
Page 51 is missing.||en_US