Processability and development of syntax and agreement in the interlanguage of learners of Arabic as a foreign language
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This study investigated the development of the interlanguage of learners of Arabic as a foreign language from a processability perspective as presented in Pienemann (1998). Pienemann's Processability Theory (PT) procedures were applied to seven syntactic structures of Arabic and accordingly three stages of development in the interlanguage (IL) of learners of Arabic as a foreign language (AFL) were predicted. Attributive adjectives were predicted to be acquired at stage 3, followed by predicative adjectives, SV and VS at stage 4. Vcomp (to+Vclause), embedded clauses (that+clause) and adjectival clauses were predicted to be acquired at stage 5. According to PT, second language development should proceed in an implicational hierarchy i.e. no stage skipping. In addition to syntactic development, acquisition of four gender-number agreement combinations on verbs and adjectives was investigated. Data for this study were elicited at two points of time from six AFL learners evenly distributed over three levels on instruction yielding 679 minutes of recording. Data elicitation depended largely on free production. However, in the first two levels picture description was part of the elicitation procedure. The results of this study indicate that although there was no stage skipping, there was variability between structures within the same stage. For example, both VS and SV were predicted to develop at stage 4; however, SV was acquired before VS. In fact, VS word order was acquired only after two other structures in stage 5 were acquired. Among the seven syntactic structures we found an implicational order, independent of stages, represented in five developmental sequences. In terms of gender –number agreement combinations, the findings indicate that, in general, combination in which the number is singular were acquired before combinations in which the number is plural regardless of gender and that combinations in which the gender is masculine were acquired before combinations in which the gender is famine regardless of number. The theoretical implications of these findings are discussed in light of input, L1 transfer, markedness and restructuring. In conclusion, this study suggests modifying input to include form-meaning activities following Van Patten's (2002, 2004) Processing Instruction.