Morpheme Order Studies: A Descriptive Study in English as a Second Language
Ramos Feijoo, Jon
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Morpheme Order Studies (MOS) conform a set of highly influential studies in the field of first and second language acquisition. These studies were based on the assumption that there exists a universal and natural order for morpheme acquisition that all learners follow regardless of their background. The present paper aims to make a critical review of these studies by outlining the most significant ones in the domain of Second Language Acquisition (SLA). It also presents some evidence which accounts for the influence of other factors when acquiring Second Language (L2) morphemes, such as the role of the First Language (L1) or the features of morphemes themselves. Additionally, a small study has been carried out with the purpose of finding out in which order morphemes are actually acquired and to what extent L1 transfer can alter this order. I have gathered data from the writing section of an exam completed by learners in an English academy. I have chosen two classes of different proficiency levels (B1 and B2) for a more comprehensive study. I have analysed the writings focusing on the errors related to the target morphemes of the study: progressive –ing, plural –s, copula be, auxiliary be, articles, irregular past, regular past –ed, 3rd person singular –s and possessive ‘s. This analysis enabled me not only to determine which morphemes the students acquired first and which ones later but also to propose a possible order of acquisition that the participants could have followed, depending on the number of errors gathered in relation to each morpheme. After that, I have compared the order determined by this study to the one proposed by Krashen (1982) to check if these subjects adhered to the natural order of acquisition. The results reveal that students did not follow accurately Krashen’s natural order and the existence of various errors caused by interlingual transfer corroborate that the L1 plays a significant role on the acquisition of L2 morphemes. Therefore, the students’ L1 seems to have affected the natural order of acquisition of these morphemes. However, these results are quite tentative since several variables, such as age or type of task, should also have been taken into account.