Text chat as a bridge between speaking and writing proficiency

Supervisor: Dr Zöe Handley

A) Rationale for the project

Unlike learners from other linguistic backgrounds, Chinese learners of English continue to make gender errors in the use of third person pronouns as they increase in proficiency. This problem appears to result from transfer of the first language to the second language. Unlike English, Mandarin does not have different third person pronouns for males and females in the spoken form. It does, however, have different third person pronouns for males and females in the written form.

Text chat shares features of both speaking and writing.  As such, it has been suggested that completing language learning tasks via text chat might provide a bridge between speaking and writing proficiency. In this project, you will explore this hypothesis in the context of Chinese learners’ acquisition of English third person pronouns or a similar attested learner difficulty.

B) References that should be read (if you do not have access to these, please email zoe.handley@york.ac.uk)

Crystal, D. (2006). Language and the Internet (2nd). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge.

Dong, Y., Wen, Y., Zeng, X., & Ji, Y. (2015). Exploring the cause of English pronoun gender errors by Chinese learners of English: Evidence from the self-paced reading paradigm. Journal of psycholinguistic research, 44(6), 733-747.

Qi, R. (2010). Pronoun acquisition in a Mandarin—English bilingual child. International Journal of Bilingualism, 14(1), 37-64.

Satar, H. M., & Özdener, N. (2008). The effects of synchronous CMC on speaking proficiency and anxiety: Text versus voice chat. The Modern Language Journal, 92(4), 595-613.

C) Research aims / questions

You will test the hypothesis that text chat provides a bridge between speaking and writing proficiency.

D) Methods

Working within the framework of task-based language teaching, you will design and carry out two experiments. The first experiment will compare learner’s use of third person pronouns (or a similar attested learner difficulty) in speaking, writing and text chat-mediated tasks. The second experiment will investigated the impact of completing a series of text chat mediated tasks on learners’ use of third person pronouns (or a similar attested learner difficulty).

E) Skills and opportunities you could gain

You will develop a critical appreciation of the potential value of the use of computer-mediated communication in language learning and teaching. You will learn how to design experimental studies, and code and carry out statistical analyses of language learner data.