Information structural transfer in advanced EFL writing: Does it ‘feel’ non-native? An empirical study of native speaker perceptions of clause-initial circumstance adverbials in L1 Dutch advanced EFL writing.

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This thesis investigates native speaker perceptions of the use of clause-initial circumstance adverbials in texts written by L1 Dutch advanced learners of English as a Foreign Language (EFL). Such infelicitous sentence-beginnings in English are a result of information structural transfer from Dutch into English. Previous research on this phenomenon was conducted by Van Vuuren (2013) and Verheijen, Los & De Haan (2013), who denoted the use of clause-initial adverbials in L1 Dutch EFL texts as distinctly ‘non-native’. This thesis questions the assumption that such sentence-beginnings are a sign of non-nativeness by investigating how native speakers of English perceive L1 Dutch advanced EFL texts. It is hypothesized that native speakers judge them to be less native-like, less coherent, and less continuous than native speaker texts due to the marked overuse of clause-initial circumstance adverbials. This hypothesis was tested by means of a survey conducted among native speakers of English, which consisted of operation tasks and judgements tasks on excerpts of L1 Dutch student essays. The results were analysed both quantitatively and qualitatively. The hypothesis was not confirmed, because most scores were not significant and many of the respondents’ comments contradicted the expectations. This shows that the idea of ‘non-nativeness’ of information structural transfer in L1 Dutch EFL writing is not as unambiguous as it seemed.
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