The Effect of Second Language Instruction on Acquisition of Relative Clauses in the Russian Language The Effect of Second Language Instruction on Acquisition of Relative Clauses in the Russian Language

by Dunn, Valentina Nikolayevna

Abstract (Summary)
The purpose of this research was to test the predictions of the Accessibility

Hierarchy (AH) theory (Keenan & Comrie, 1977) applying it to the Russian language.

According to this theory, relative clauses (RC) are acquired in a fixed unidirectional

order: from subject (S) – the highest (unmarked) and more susceptible to relativization

position – to object of comparative (OCOM) – the lowest (marked) and less susceptible

to relativization position. Since some researchers (Hamilton, 1994) claim that the AH is

multidirectional rather than unidirectional, this study takes into consideration these

findings as well. The present study attempts to determine (a) if learners of the Russian

language are able to make generalizations about more unmarked RC positions after

receiving instruction only on a relatively marked relative clause position (in this study it

is OPR – object of a preposition), and (b) if instruction on unmarked relative clause

position facilitates learners’ ability to generalize that learning to marked relative clauses.

Participants of the study were Brigham Young University students studying

Russian as a second language. Two groups, the basic treatment group (BG) and the

complex treatment group (CG) with a total of fifty-four subjects, completed pretests and

posttests, each of which included two elicitation tasks: a combination test (CT) and a

grammaticality judgment test (GJT). Both groups received instruction between the tests.

The BG received instruction on the subject (S), the direct object (DO), and the indirect

object (IO) RC positions. The CG received instruction only on the OPR position. Three

types of error, incorrect adjacency, incorrect morphological RC ending, and pronoun

retention, were analyzed separately. In addition, the CT investigated the acquisition of

pied-piping structure in the OPR and GEN types. The results of the research support

Hamilton’s (1994) findings and suggest that generalization is clearly not unidirectional.

Regardless of type of instruction the subjects of both groups generalized their learning in

both directions.

Bibliographical Information:


School:Brigham Young University

School Location:USA - Utah

Source Type:Master's Thesis

Keywords:language acquisition the russian accessibility hierarchy relative clauses


Date of Publication:06/15/2007

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