Motion events in English as a fourth language: A linguistic analysis of a selected episode in multilingual learner narratives
This article reports on a study that investigated the description of motion events in narrative texts written by 13-14 and 17-18 year olds learning English as a fourth language at schools where multilingualism is a key objective. The focus was placed on the learners’ references to the animate beings featured in the story and their use of verbs and satellites in order to describe the movement situations elicited from the image selected for analysis from the wordless picture story the teenagers had to retell in words. The main objective of the study was to draw a comparison between the two age or proficiency-level groups within a functional-pragmatic framework. The learners’ narrative and linguistic choices in their motion-event constructions were analysed, with a number of comments made on the basis of the participants’ other languages. Findings revealed preferences and tendencies that were partly similar and partly different in the two school grades. The predominant figures turned out to be the same at both proficiency levels, with the use of superordinates to fill lexical gaps identified as one of the main communication strategies and the more frequent use of personal pronouns characterising the higher-level texts. With the exception of the motion undertaken by one figure, the motion events depicted were described with similar verbs, and a non-target like use of the satellites after and behind was noticed in both age groups. The article is argued to constitute the basis for further investigations into motion events in multilingual learners’ texts.
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