Thematization in Advanced EFL English
This study hypothesizes that thematization devices are sources of difficulty to the Arab learner. Fronting-devices, i.e. the ways of bringing different elements to the front position, or the placement of the tonic syllable, i.e. the syllable singled out for attention because of its importance as bearing new information escape the attention of advanced Arab learners.
There is a tendency for an Arab learner to focus attention on each word or phrase. A word that is ‘singled out for attention’ as being important is often missed.
The objectives of this study are the following:
(i) to measure students’ ability to recognize English thematizing patterns
(ii) to highlight the importance of grammatical structures that are underplayed in grammar textbooks
(iii) determine the effect of L1 thematization processes on corresponding L2 processes
(iv) pinpoint sources of difficulty attributed to different focusing processes in conversational exchange
A test comprising 30 sentences in which certain elements were thematized and recorded by an English RP speaker were presented to 120 advanced L2 students. They were asked to circle the words that the speaker chose to highlight or focus attention on. Each sentence was repeated twice to ensure students’ appropriate reception. Results show that variation of word order and its concomitant effect on how the information is presented is not very well-known to the advanced Arab learner of English. Less well known is the relevance of tonic variation to the development of conversational exchange.
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