Strength for Today and Bright Hope for Tomorrow

Volume 9 : 11 November 2009
ISSN 1930-2940

Managing Editor: M. S. Thirumalai, Ph.D.
Editors: B. Mallikarjun, Ph.D.
         Sam Mohanlal, Ph.D.
         B. A. Sharada, Ph.D.
         A. R. Fatihi, Ph.D.
         Lakhan Gusain, Ph.D.
         K. Karunakaran, Ph.D.
         Jennifer Marie Bayer, Ph.D.



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Acquisition of English Intransitive Verbs by Urdu Speakers

Abdul Qadir Khan & Sumaira Sarfraz


The aim of the study is to investigate the distinction made in the use of English intransitive verbs by Urdu speakers. It, further, explores the effect of task variation on the acquisition of intransitive verbs and focuses on whether the distinction in two types of intransitive verbs is systematic or not. Written essays and a Grammatical Judgment Task (GJT) of thirty graduate level students have been analyzed for various occurrences and misuses of English unaccusative and unergative verbs. The study has shown that Urdu speakers make a clear distinction between two types of English intransitive verbs and use more frequently passive morphology with unaccusative verbs than unergative verbs. The study has further indicated that task variation influences the learners performance and that learners do not randomly use passive morphology rather they make a grammar that seems to allow 'be+en' with the verbs where subjects have semantic properties of an object.

1. Introduction

The unaccusative hypothesis presented by Permutter (1978) claims that intransitive verbs fall into two subclasses- unergative verbs and unaccusative verbs.

A. The light spread

The above mentioned verbs, in example A and B, appear to fall into two classes by virtue of their meaning. With verbs like spread (arrive, fall, die) the subject is not so much the cause of the action as the entity affected by it. With verbs like shout (swim, dance, sparkle), the subject might said to be the cause of the action, either through intention (e.g. The man shouted) or through its inherit properties (e.g. The diamond sparks). There is nothing in the forms of intransitives in English to distinguish these two classes but there are syntactic contexts where only one class and not the other can occur. Only the spread type verbs are possible in "there" constructions.

a. Last week there arrived a book that would be perfect for the course.
b. *Last week there shouted a man who found the lecture bore

Spread type verbs are called unaccusatives, meaning that their subjects have the typical properties of the objects in transitive construction (are affected by the action). Objects always take the accusative case, but the subjects with spread-type verbs are always nominative, hence "Unaccusative". The subjects of shout-type verbs are like the subjects of transitive constructions; these verbs are called "Unergatives".

Lot of work has been done on the topic of unaccusative and unergative verbs like Burzio (1986), Rizzi (1981), Permutter and Postal (1984) Grewendrof (1989), Levin and Rappaport (1995). Their findings have been applied to Second Language Acquisition (SLA) research by several researchers like Zobl (1989) and Yip (1995) but not as much work has been devoted to SLA research than has been devoted to theoretical aspects.

The previous research in this area has focused on the acquisition of English unaccusatives by learners from different L1 backgrounds such as Chinese, (Balcom, 1997;Yip.1995), Japanese (Hirakawa, 2003,1995;Oshita, 2000.1997), Italian (Oshita, 1997), Spanish (Oshita, 1997). There has not been any known research conducted on the L2 acquisition of English unaccusative and unergative verbs by native speakers of Urdu. This paper investigates how Urdu learners of English distinguish between the two subclasses of intransitive verbs and also looks into the effect of task variation on the performance of the learners.

2. Research Questions

  1. Do Urdu speakers draw a distinction in the use of English intransitive verbs?
  2. Is there any significant effect of task variation on the performance of the L2 learners in the acquisition of English intransitive verbs?
  3. Whether the distinction in the use of intransitive verbs is systematic or not?

This is only the beginning part of the article. PLEASE CLICK HERE TO READ THE ARTICLE IN PRINTER-FRIENDLY VERSION.

Attitude towards Mother Tongue - A Study of the Tribal Students of Orissa | Computer-mediated Communication in a Bilingual Chatroom | Compensation Strategies for Speaking English Adopted by Engineering Students of Tamil Nadu - A Study | Acquisition of English Intransitive Verbs by Urdu Speakers | Community, Culture and Curriculum in the Context of Tribal Education in Orissa, India | Auxiliary Verbs in Modern Tamil | Getting Around 'Offensive' Language | Noun Morphology in Kuki-Chin Languages | A Plea for the Use of Language Portals in Imparting Communication Skills | Advances in Machine Translation Systems | A Comparative Study of the Effect of Explicit-inductive and Explicit-deductive Grammar Instruction in EFL Contexts | Lexical Choice and Social Context in Shashi Deshpande's That Long Silence | The Voice of Servility and Dominance Expressed through Animal Imagery in Adiga's The White Tiger | Phonological Analysis of English Phonotactics of Syllable Initial and Final Consonant Clusters by Yemeni Speakers of English | Effective Use of Language in Communicating News through Political Emergency | Helping the Limited English Proficient Learner Learn the Second Language Effectively through Strategy Instruction | P.S. Sri's The Temple Elephant: A Bestiary with Socio-Political and Spiritual Message | Papers Presented in the All-India Conference on Multimedia Enhanced Language Teaching - MELT 2009 | A Phonological Study of the Variety of English Spoken by Oriya Speakers in Western Orissa - A Doctoral Dissertation | HOME PAGE of November 2009 Issue | HOME PAGE | CONTACT EDITOR

Abdul Qadir Khan
Ph.D. Student
Department of English
School of Social Sciences and Humanities
University of Management and Technology

Sumaira Sarfraz
Ph.D. Student
Department of English
School of Social Sciences and Humanities
University of Management and Technology

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