Volume 8, Issue 2
  • ISSN 2215-1478
  • E-ISSN: 2215-1486
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The difficulty of automatically extracting syntactic structures from authentic learner data has previously limited the kinds of questions addressed by means (CIA; Granger, 2015), or has forced researchers to resort to manual analysis of smaller corpora. This study responds to the call for greater use of parsed corpora by using automated parsing and refined corpus analysis software to investigate advanced EFL learners’ use of relative and participial clauses for nominal postmodification. The use of clausal postmodifiers inside the noun phrase may be seen as a marker of proficiency and syntactic maturity in academic writing, but the proportional use of relative and participial clauses for nominal postmodification may also be subject to L1 transfer. To investigate the role of transfer and syntactic maturity in the use of nominal postmodification, we compare texts written by Dutch EFL learners with those produced by learners from typologically distinct L1s, i.e. Czech and French, and by native speakers of English. Use of participial clauses and relative clauses in Dutch learners’ EFL texts is then compared with their use in L1 Dutch. The high degree of L1-interlanguage congruity suggests that transfer plays an important role in the Dutch learners’ strong preference for relative clauses for nominal postmodification. Based on the comparison with both other learner groups, we hypothesize that such transfer effects in the use of clausal postmodification can only emerge once the learner has reached a sufficient level of syntactic maturity in the target language.


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