Assoc. Prof. Nattama Pongpairoj

Chulalongkorn University, Thailand


Nattama Pongpairoj is an associate professor at the English as an International Language Program (EIL), the Graduate School, and Head of the Applied Linguistics for Language Education, Chulalongkorn University, Thailand. Her research interest lies in Applied Linguistics and Second Language Acquisition, particularly L2 representation and processing.

Topic: Unattainability of L2 Functional Features Cases of English Article Omissions and Substitutions

Abstract: English is a language with only the indefinite ‘a(n)’ and the definite ‘the’ articles. Variability in L2 English articles has been well-documented. This talk will include two cases of variability in L2 English articles by L1 Thai learners: article omissions (Pongpairoj 2015) and article substitutions (Pongpairoj 2020). It will be shown that variability of English articles can be accounted for by a common construct. In the former study, Pongpairoj (2015) explored English article omissions by 30 advanced L1 Thai learners. The obligatory nominal contexts were first and second mention definites. The data were elicited on a grammaticality judgment task (GJT) and a translation task. The results revealed that the learners would exhibit higher article omissions with second rather than with first mention definite referents in both production and perception. In the latter research, Pongpairoj (2020) explored English article substitutions in definite and indefinite contexts. The participants were two advanced learner groups (30 participants each) of different L1 backgrounds., i.e., French and Thai, a language with and without articles, respectively. The tasks were a GJT and a forced-choice elicitation task. The data showed significantly higher article substitutions in the Thai group than in the French group in all nominal contexts in both production and perception. Based on the notion of non-target-like syntactic representation under Generative Grammar (Hawkins 2000; 2003), it is assumed that L2 functional parameters not instantiated in the learners’ L1 are unattainable. As Definiteness is not grammaticalized in the Thai language, the L1 Thai learners do not possess the feature [Def] in their mental representation, leading to deficit syntax. Unlike the French counterparts, The Thai learners’ English article use is possibly not syntactically motivated, resulting in variability in English articles in terms of omissions and substitutions.

Keywords: variability, English articles, omissions, substitutions, L1 Thai learners, syntactic representation