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Dissertation
Dissertation > Language, writing > FOREIGN > English > Language teaching

The Application of Markedness Theory to the Study of Subject-Verb Agreement

Author FanWei
Tutor LingZuo
School Northwest Normal University
Course Curriculum and Pedagogy
Keywords Markedness Theory Marked Unmarked Subject-Verb agreement
CLC H319
Type Master's thesis
Year 2010
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In recent years, researchers in second language acquisition have begun to consider the application of linguistic Markedness Theory' dissertation">Markedness Theory to aspects of second language learning. However, most of them mainly focus on the application of Markedness Theory in phonology, grammar, semantics, pragmatics, and so on. They seldom apply Markedness Theory into Subject-Verb agreement. Therefore, it is of theoretical and realistic significance to make a study from that point of view. The present study seeks to extend Markedness Theory to the area of subject-verb agreement, specifically, the research hypothesizes in this study areas follows:(1) when an unmarked subject noun is modified by one of the singular quantifiers (one, every, or each), which may posses a grammatical feature for singular number, may that feature result in a decrease in the incidence of plural attraction errors? (2) if a local noun phrase is modified by one of the singular quantifiers (one, every, or each), which may posses a grammatical feature for singular number, may that feature be mistakenly detected by the agreement mechanism and resulted in an increase in the incidence of singular attraction errors? (3) if a local noun phrase is modified by one of the plural quantifiers (e.g., many, several or a few), which may should strengthen the specification of plural number, may that feature be mistakenly detected by the agreement mechanism and resulted in an increase in the incidence of plural attraction errors?The present study adopts written test, the subjects are presented with sentences. Every sentence includes a subject noun phrase which followed by a post-modifying prepositional phrase and a corresponding adjective. The sentences contain match condition and mismatch condition. The subjects are asked to fill the corresponding link verb to produce a complete sentence. The subjects’responses are scored from the following three aspects: correct, error and ambiguous.The results provide evidence that when an unmarked subject noun is modified by the singular quantifier, the singular number feature of the quantifier can result in a decrease in the incidence of plural attraction errors; when a local noun phrase is modified by the singular quantifier, the singular number feature of the quantifier can result in an increase in the incidence of singular attraction errors; but if a local noun phrase is modified by the plural quantifier, the plural feature of the plural quantifier can not result in an increase in the incidence of plural attraction errors.The conclusions of the present study are as follows: (1) the effect of a quantifier is not one of enhancing the marking of number, but rather one of actual specification; (2) singular count nouns are unmarked or lack a grammatical feature for number while plural count nouns are marked or possess a grammatical feature for number. The plural number feature contributes to the greater incidence of agreement errors than singular number feature.

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