Document Type


Date of Degree

Summer 2010

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Second Language Acquisition

First Advisor

Hurtig, Richard

First Committee Member

Davies, William

Second Committee Member

Liskin-Gasparro, Judith

Third Committee Member

Makino, Seiichi

Fourth Committee Member

Spencer, Bruce


The main objective of the current study is to investigate L2 Japanese learners' ability to segment complex sentences from aural input. Elementary- and early-intermediate level L2 learners in general have not developed the ability to use syntactic cues to interpret the meaning of sentences they hear. In the case of Japanese, recognition of inflectional morphemes is crucial for the accurate segmentation of complex sentences, as they signal the end of each clause. However, recognition of inflectional morphemes was found to be challenging for low proficiency learners because they are often fused in natural speech; thus, they are low in salience.

To assist L2 learners in finding meaningful chunks, namely clauses within a complex sentence, the current study attempted to focus their attention on inflectional morphemes in aural input. During the experiment, learners were asked to repeat complex sentences as accurately as possible. Half of the stimuli were accompanied by pictures that corresponded to the activities described in these complex sentences. The study hypothesized that visualized chunks would reduce L2 learners' cognitive load and enable them to pay closer attention to syntactic elements; thus, learners would reconstruct complex sentences better with the pictorial information support. It was also hypothesized that the ability to reconstruct elements that are low in salience would account for L2 learners' receptive proficiency.

The results revealed that L2 learners' reconstruction of complex sentences improved significantly with the support of visualized chunks. However, it became evident that learners' reconstruction of an inflectional morpheme to which they had not been fully exposed in class did not improve with the pictorial support. Such a tendency was particularly obvious when the inflectional morpheme was located in a sentence internal position. Additionally, the study found that L2 learners' ability to reconstruct an inflectional morpheme declined when it was void of communicative value. In terms of receptive proficiency, the results indicate that L2 learners' ability to reconstruct syntactic elements that are low in salience is a reliable predictor of their receptive proficiency.


Attention, Complex Sentences, Inflectional Morphemes, Japanese, Second Language, Segmentation


xi, 150 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 141-150).


Copyright 2010 Akiko Hagiwara