This page is for the presentation by Ken Urano at the 45th Annual Convention of the Japan Society of English Language Education (JASELE 2019), held on August 17–18 at Hirosaki University, titled:

Japanese learners’ reliance on specificity when using the English articles: A forced-choice gap-filling study


Mastering the article system in a second language is challenging, especially when the learner’s first language does not have articles. Previous studies (e.g., Ionin, Ko, & Wexler, 2004) have demonstrated that speakers of article-less languages often fail to use the English articles correctly because they wrongly rely on specificity, rather than definiteness. The present study has attempted to examine (a) whether or not Japanese learners of English can use definiteness when choosing the English article, and (b) to what extent they are influenced by specificity. Fourteen adult Japanese learners of English were recruited to perform a forced-choice gap-filling task, in which they were asked to read dialogs in English and choose either the indefinite or definite article for target noun phrases. Four conditions were created, namely, DS [+definite, +specific], DN [+definite, –specific], IS [–definite, +specific], and IN [–definite, –specific], and eight dialogs were presented for each condition (taken from Ionin, Ko, & Wexler, 2004). Mean choices and standard deviations of the indefinite article were 2.00 (2.22), 3.14 (2.38), 4.43 (2.44), and 6.14 (1.61), respectively. The overall results indicate that the Japanese learners of English can use definiteness when choosing the English article, though not perfectly. At the same time, they are slightly influenced by specificity, even though it is not encoded in the English article system. A closer look at the individual data has revealed that eight of the 14 participants were influenced by specificity at least to some extent. These results will be discussed in comparison with relevant previous studies.

Presentation Slides [PDF]