Developmental Differences in Aspectual Knowledge for English-Mandarin Bilinguals in Singapore

Project Number
OER 04/13 OBA

Project Duration
December 2013 - March 2016


The main purpose of this proposed research is to investigate primary and secondary-level Chinese Singaporean students' English grammatical knowledge with regard to aspect. Aspect is a temporal notion relating to how a linguistic event unfolds in time, depicting complete versus incomplete situations. Grasping such knowledge is essential to successful communication. However, differences existing between standard English and Mandarin as well as Singapore English mean that Singapore students could face difficulties in learning this linguistic property. In addition, aspectual information can be marked on multiple elements in the sentence, including both verbs and nouns, a fact that might increase the level of complexity in learning. Research on Singaporean students' aspectual knowledge (or grammar knowledge in general) is rather limited, has typically focused on one element in the sentence, and is so far yet to adopt a controlled experimental approach. Using quantitative, experimental methods, this project will examine bilingual Singapore students' understanding of the aspectual contribution of both verbs and nouns, explore students' pattern of learning in grammar domains that are apparently unrelated but theoretically connected, and investigate any learning difference between primary and secondary students. Around 176 students (88 from primary 5 and 88 from secondary 2) will be selected to take part in the study based on their responses in a language background questionnaire. They will then complete a series of paper/pencil tasks, spread between two sessions, examining their English language proficiency, knowledge in aspect and related linguistic properties. Statistical analyses will be run to understand the effects of linguistic, proficiency, and age factors in influencing learners' aspectual knowledge. This project will help both researchers and educators understand an important area of Singapore students' grammar system and the results may inform the teaching of grammar.

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