To seewhether there is a disparity between native speaker and second language speakerdue to L1 influence on L2, the research design will focus on tense and aspectsusage in English, especially on simple past and present perfect. Languageis a medium through which human beings express their ideas, exchangeinformation, and form their cognitive landscape. By probing into one language,it gives us clues on how people who speak that language view the world.However, for people who are trying to learn such communicative medium as asecond language might have hard time achieve a full understanding of suchcognitive sense, regardless of their linguistic proficiency, due to theirpreexisting L1 and its system of processing the world. This deficiency act as ahindrance for ESL speakers from using certain linguistic functions. Tenseand aspects reflect the way speakers think of time.
It is a grammatical deviceto describe the time span and the order of incident, ‘indicate both the time ofthe action expressed by the verb’ and ‘the speaker’s view on the of that actionin time’ (Cowan 2008). It is used to present the situation that happened and thehidden intention of such affair (Park 2015). Although expressed in variousways, it mainly appears in a verb with inflection or auxiliary verb and throughthe effective application of the tense to the verb, it will lead to moreaccurate visualization and understanding of the speaker’s intention.
Tensethat is contained in a verb ‘expresses the time that an action occurs inrelation to the moment of speaking’ (Cowan 2008). Researchers usually say thattense of English can be divided into two categories, the present and the past,and the future is represented periphrastically, meaning it is represented with ahelp of auxiliary verb. Furthermore, people can use time signaling adverbs orprepositional phrases to enrich the meaning. Aspect ishow ‘the speakers view the action of the verb’ (Cowan 2008). The example couldbe perfect(an action that is complete), imperfect(the action that is notcomplete), iterative(the action that is repeated), habitual(the action thatoccurs regularly), etc. Two aspects, progressive and perfect, in English isrevealed through auxiliary verbs and the form of main verbs. Like those twoaspectual meanings are retained in such form, different languages have theirown distinctive methods to show the aspects and these devices cover the differentarea of aspect.
Otherthan tense and aspect, there is another medium to deliver the idea of timecalled lexical aspect. It makes the discrepancy between meaning, which may endup changing the interpretation of the reader. The verbs in this viewpoint canbe divided into stative verbs, which indicate situation rather than the motion,and dynamic verbs, which depicts the action taken by the subject. Regardless ofthe categories, some verbs can be relevant to both sides.In The Teacher’s Grammar of English writtenby Cowan(2008), it explains about the wall that ESL and EFL students face whenthey are acquiring the tense and aspect. He points out three influentialfactors for such obstacles: the lexical aspect of verbs, the influence of L1,and the input that students received in a formal setting. To tell the effect ofL1 to L2 tense and aspect learning, he gives 3 examples from different L1backgrounds. Firstly, from Collins study in 2002, French L1 speakers who aretrying to learn English showed a tendency to use present perfect forms wherethe simple past forms are necessary as the appropriate answer in French(passé composé)is similar to present perfect in English.
For some language, like Chinese,verbs are not inflected to express the tense. The experiment done to ChineseESL learners indicate that they use ‘bare infinitive forms’ when inflection isneeded. German can be another example to demonstrate L1 influence to L2 sinceit has only one tense that is correspondent to two tenses in English. They usesimple present to both simple present and present progressive in English,causing the difficulty for German ESLs to learn to distinguish the appropriatetense choice in English. In Yang’s research on ‘A Comparison betweenAspectual Markers of English and Korean’ (2002), how English and Korean languageconvey aspect, especially the perfect aspect, differs in their forms. WhenEnglish signify aspect through rather precise and overt marker of ‘have + p.p.’for perfect or ‘be + ~ing’ for progressive, Korean do not specifically have oneon one corresponding marker for the aspect.
It uses periphrasis and adverbswith no fixed forms to make up for the absence. As for the lexical aspect,English and Korean seem to use similar verbs to deliver speaker’s view of the action.However, in both language, verbs that are used to indicate each aspect are alsoapplied to other different aspectual expressions depending on the context andthe situation. Therefore, we can say that the natives of each language asserttheir intuitive power to distinguish the aspect in the verbs. Accordingto Park(2015) in ‘A Study on Korean EFL University Learners’ Use of the EnglishPresent Perfect and the Simple Past’, she conducted a study on Korean ESL students’usage of past and present perfect. Park tested university students withquestions about tense, dividing them by their English proficiency level, andcompared the results with the native English speakers who were also tested bythe same material. The outcome of this experiment shows that Korean Englishlearners got the lower rate of correct answers than ENL in overall and that ESLstudents got the higher percentage of wrong answers in specific types ofpresent perfect, resulting in the wider gap with ENLs.
She also analyzed therate of incorrect answers, finding out that Korean EFL learners showedundergeneralization on present perfect if the stative verb is in the sentence.However, Park’s study has its limitation from using grammar test to see whetherKorean ESLs really do lack their understanding of English tense and aspectsystem, since the students might just be well trained to solve the grammarquestions rather than having the full comprehension. Thehypotheses of our experiment are 1) People whose English is native languagewill use more various types of tense and aspect combinations in their sentencesthan Korean whose L2 is English, 2) the gap between simple past tense usage andpresent perfect will be bigger in Korean ESLs than ENLs. To seeif ESL really avoid such tense and aspect which are different from their L1, theresearch can be done by analyzing and comparing the newspaper articles betweenone written by native English journalist and the other by Korean journalistwhose second language is English. The two articles that are concerned with the sametopic will be picked and the genre of the texts will be limited to informativerather than assertive like editorials or opinion. The reason for choosing newsarticles as an object of investigation is because writers are looking at thesame events and explaining them through their own language process.
To study ifESLs really have limited usage of tense and aspects, the texts should be the resultof free writing rather than merely translating L1 writing to L2. The topic thatthe articles are dealing with would not matter as the study is mainly focusingon its time expression shown through inflections. In the articles, there can bea lot of interviews and quotes. They should be eliminated to see the actualwriting output of the journalists and because when the interview contents aretransformed into reported speech, the tenses of that verbs are backshifted.
Theselection of target articles will be implemented enough to say there is aplausible relationship to back up the hypothesis. Thedata representing the ESL writing can be collected from The Korea Time and theENL from The New York Times. The journalists should also be controlled to makesure they are representatives of their analysis group – no native Englishspeaker in Korean news samples. Although it might seem problematic that therecould be ESL journalists in the foreign press, it can be regulated throughtheir way of recruiting the reporter, choosing the people who they think ismost natural to their linguistic taste. In that sense, it would be more crucialto eliminate the native English journalists in Korean press.
Aftergathering the articles, the frequency of each tense and aspects usage will becategorized and counted. The categorization can be divided into twelve: past,past progressive, past perfect, past perfect progressive, present, presentprogressive, present perfect, present perfect progressive, future, futureprogressive, future perfect and future perfect progressive. The number ofappearances then will be modified into percentage since the length of both newsarticles vary. Predicting theresult of such experimental design, overall variety of tense and aspectappearance will be higher for ENL news articles than ESL. Also, informationdelivered in the past tense will be seen more frequently than present perfect inESL journalists than ENL journalist. This gap between the two can be expectedthrough the previous studies on how two system of language process time in a differentmanner. From theperspective of Contrastive Analysis Hypothesis(CAH), such hardship of acquiringthe English grammatic sense of time is explainable with the negative transfer oftheir L1, Korean. In CAH, there is a notion of positive transfer and negativetransfer – former meaning that some factors which already exists in L1 arerelatively learned easier for L2 and the later vice versa.
Since there are somefactors missing or appearing in other special forms in L2, preexisting L1function as the barrier against acquiring the L2 readily, or negativelytransferred. Korean lack the clear marker for the aspect, making the ESLlearner hesitant when applying present perfect in their L2 writing. Principles andParameters model assumes the existence of ‘principles’ which are universalproperties of all language in the world. The parameters are the specific choicesthat can be taken by a particular language and these choices constitute thetrait of that language. When a person who has already established one’s L1parameter settings is trying to learn a second language, he or she needs toreset some of the parameters that are different from L1 accordingly to the targetlanguage. That is the point where one may suffer from learning the L2.
Althoughthe journalists easily mastered simple past as it shows similar parameter settingwith Korean, it might have been hard for them to fully comprehend the perfectaspect of English which is ambiguous in Korean, making them avoid using rather anunfamiliar one.Other than the discussionson learner’s perspectives, the inputs that are given to them through formal settingscan be pointed out for the reason of such expectations. People learn their L1without any clear instructions on aspects of language. From the time they werevery young, they just speak out the sentences that contain those functions unconsciously.They learn about its being when they start to learn English and even in that classes,the teachings are focused on memorization of the markers and the syntacticstructure than the lexical understandings. The lack of idea on tense an aspectin L1 and fixed L2 formal settings on memorization may have caused such misuse.
There are a lot oflimitation in the research design. The journalist could have just copied theKorean news articles, undermining the intent of this experiment of probing thefree writing of the ESLs. Also, it is hard to control the sample journalists tomatch the exact definition of ESL. For the tense and aspect itself, as this designis close to corpus study, we can only look at the apparent, superficial usage.For example, some simple present tense might be containing the future tensewithout any auxiliary verbs.
It is also difficult to see the lexical aspects ofthe sentences. As a window to ourmind, language reflects the view of the world, causing the diversity among them.We have thought of a research design to see if L2 is affected by the preexistingL1 focusing on the tense and aspect usages of ENL and Korean ESL. After definingthe ideas, previous studies showed the L1 background hinderance on L2, thedifference between Korean and English in aspect perception and how Korean EFLlearners use English present perfect and simple past. To see if those results coincidewith the free writing of ESLs, the research was designed to investigate theKorean news articles written in the second language, English. The expectationswere made and the plausible explanations were discussed through contrastiveanalysis theory, principles and parameters model and the formal instructions. Regardlessof the limitations, the research could demonstrate the limited understanding oftense and aspect due to their L1.