The early development of L2 narratives: a longitudinal study
Marges Linguistiques, 5, .
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This paper compares performance on the same story retelling task performed twice at a yearly interval by the same L2 learners of French, after one year and two years of classroom instruction respectively.
Global measures of linguistic performance are presented, as well as more detailed analyses of the role of the verb phrase in narrative development, and of the discourse features of these L2 narratives.
Three developmental stages are identified, as follows:
Stage 1: lexical phrases are produced independently of one another;
Stage 2: verbs are increasingly used to structure sentences, relating arguments with one another;
Stage 3: formal encoding (e.g. through morphology, anaphora, connectors) of more distant relations appears gradually in the more advanced learners, moving from local domains to less local domains.
It is suggested that the reason behind these developmental stages is that establishing links through morphosyntactic and discursive means makes heavy parsing demands, beyond the learners’ processing capabilities in the L2 who are initially only able to operate within local domains.
Furthermore, limited processing capacities force learners to revert to narrative schemas typical of preschool L1 children, and to select the most salient aspects of the story, privileging foreground over background episodes.
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