The Development of EFL Learners’ Syntactic Knowledge and its Relationship to Writing Quality

Article Type:
Research/Original Article (بدون رتبه معتبر)

Knowledge of verb-argument constructions (VACs) has been examined in a variety of contexts where English is mostly taught from the early stages of their schooling. No study has so far examined EFL learners’ knowledge of VACs in a context where English as a foreign language is taught only late at the secondary school level. The current study fills this gap by exploring construction knowledge in a context where teaching EFL is postponed until other languages have been introduced to learners. Using written essays of 180 students of 3 different proficiency groups, three indices of syntactic sophistication (i.e. the frequency of the Verb-argument constructions, the frequency of the verb-construction combinations and the verb-construction strength of association) were examined for their development across the three grade levels. As a second objective, this study examined the ability of these indices to predict students’ writing quality, through their grades. The results suggest that while the higher proficiency group showed a significant improvement in the rareness of their VACs, the three groups showed slow progress in the use of less frequent and less strongly associated verb-construction combinations. Similarly, only the index of construction sophistication (i.e. rareness) correlated significantly with and could predict variance in the writing score. This suggests that EFL learners follow a ‘necessary first’ principle in their learning of constructions. Similarly, these results indicate that the use of rare constructions enhances raters’ judgements of students’ writing quality.

Journal of Foreign Language Teaching and Translation Studies, Volume:7 Issue: 4, Autumn 2022
87 to 109  
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