Chapter 7. L2 acquisition of English aspect by L1 Arabic speakers

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This chapter reports on a study that investigates whether L1 Arabic speakers can acquire the English aspectual contrast between the present simple (e.g. ‘plays’) and present progressive (e.g. ‘is playing’). The study was conducted with 143 Saudi Arabic college students of English and eleven native speakers. Following their performance on a cloze test, the L2 learners were assigned to four proficiency levels (beginners, low intermediate, high intermediate, and advanced). They then completed a bimodal timed aspectual interpretation task with 36 short stories (12 progressive, 12 habitual, and 12 fillers) by choosing the sentence with the verb form that best described the story context. Results show that Arabic L2 learners across proficiency levels have successfully learned the tested aspectual contrast. They did not overgeneralize the present simple to progressive and habitual contexts as in L1 Arabic. These results suggest that the interpretive properties of progressive aspect in English are unproblematic for L1 Arabic learners.


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