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A multimodal approach to investigating temporality expression in L2: What does gesture analysis reveal?

Inès Saddour

Abstract

Research on temporality expression has had a prolific history within second language acquisition (SLA) research and has provided a clear picture of temporal and aspectual (henceforth Tem) markers and their order of emergence and development in L2 acquisition. However, most of the studies have only examined speech and neglected the gestural modality. This study is an attempt to fill this gap and contribute to the relatively recent investigation of L2 gestures; examining with a combinative approach Tem devices in speech and the gestures produced concomitantly with those linguistic markers in longitudinal video-recorded narratives produced by four low-proficiency tutored French second language (L2) learners. Our results suggest that speech and gesture form an interconnected system and that gestures play a function in dealing with the abstract domain of temporal reference in early SLA. Analyses reveal that L2 learners do not gesture randomly when expressing Tem values. Their gestures co-occurring with different types of Tem linguistic devices are generally different in proportion, duration and type. Gestures are more frequent in non-finite uninflected verbal contexts. Additionally, they are often iconic and last longer on average than those produced simultaneously with verbal morphology or with adverbials. Differences in gesture rate, duration and nature in the different marking contexts and over the data collection period of 5 months suggest that gesturing may help to reduce the cognitive load brought about by the complexity of morphological marking, and may therefore be used strategically to handle hesitant Tem devices in speech in early SLA.

Acknowledgements

We would like to thank Jeanne Roussillon for her contribution to data coding and analysis, and Dr Charlotte Alazard-Guiu for her participation in data collection.

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Published Online: 2017-9-16
Published in Print: 2017-9-26

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