School of Languages and Linguistics - Theses
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Metaevaluation in Australian University Language Programs
Calls to conduct research on evaluation have been made to learn about its practical realities, in order to ensure a quality process and to improve future evaluation experiences. A key methodology addressing this need is metaevaluation, the evaluation of an evaluation. Studying seven Australian university case studies of reviews of language programs, metaevaluation is used as both the conceptual framework as well as a methodological tool to explore and assess the evaluation practices and to discover practice patterns, using the findings to make recommendations about how such evaluations should be conducted. The research in this thesis demonstrates that New Public Management (NPM) which operates as a common organizational and policy framework in Australian Higher Education and has been defined as a national and local control system which “models higher education simply in economic terms” (Marginson 2010, p. 6) is the most influential evaluation factor in reviews. In this policy context, a gap is found between the tenets of evaluation theory and the character of Australian Language Program Evaluations (aligned with NPM ideology). As a consequence, most initiators or sponsors of evaluations are not focused so much on the quality of the process but on using reviews as a top-down instrument to implement a cost-efficiency agenda. As the analysis of data progressed, it became clear that the majority of cases reveal a process of reviewing empty of any theoretical foundations based in the evaluation discipline, thus putting in jeopardy the quality of the evaluation process, which resembled more a sponsors’ top-down exercise of checking or imposing compliance with University priorities. In light of these broad findings, this thesis claims that metaevaluation has a key role in raising the quality of the practice of reviewing by ensuring reviews are informed by evaluation theory and practice, thus following principles of good practice, and that it can also help mitigate a purely cost-driven process.
The core of Mangarla grammar
Mangarla is a Pama-Nyungan language of the Marrngu subgroup, originally spoken in the Great Sandy Desert of Western Australia. Today, the language is severely endangered with a small number of speakers living in disparate communities outside of traditional lands. This work describes the core grammatical features of Mangarla and examines its linguistic connections to other languages in the region, both related and typologically unrelated, providing insight into the fluidity of individual language varieties in contact. The analysis is based on notes and audio recordings of narratives, elicited data and spontaneous conversations, recorded between 1990 and 1994, in the Kimberley communities of Bidyadanga (formerly La Grange) and Jarlmadangah Burru (formerly Mt. Anderson Station), Derby and Fitzroy Crossing. It is also informed by the work of Kevin McKelson collected between the 1960s and 1980s. All aspects of the language are impacted by its distinctive location, surrounded by three different Nyungic subgroups and the prefixing non-Pama-Nyungan languages in the north. Mangarla’s phonological inventory and lexical classes are similar to those of related suffixing languages, but unlike those further south, Mangarla’s lexicon includes many consonant-final preverbs and particles, which are often monosyllabic. Morphologically, it is a split-ergative system, with nominal arguments (including free pronouns) marked in an ergative-absolutive system while the pronominal clitics in agreement with them are split along nominative-accusative lines. Unlike other members of the Marrngu subgroup where these clitics attach to the verb, Mangarla’s bound pronouns typically encliticise to the first element of the clause or to an optional post-initial catalyst, although pragmatics also impacts on their placement. Other interesting features include the loss of the widespread dative marker and lateral-initial ergative/locative forms, its movement away from complete case-concord to free marking within the NP, and the reduction of verb conjugation classes to three. A large number of complex predicates, formed with a preverbal element and a relatively small number of inflecting verb roots, augment monomorphemic members of the verbal category. Argument structure also displays a degree of flexibility not generally recognised in Australian languages. Clause combining strategies include coordination of full and reduced clauses by parataxis, subordination of both finite and nonfinite clauses, typically employing a small number of case markers as complementisers, and unusually, clause chain cosubordination. The work adds to the knowledge of Pama-Nyungan languages in this remote region and leaves a detailed record of the language for the future use of both the Mangarla and academic communities.
Size and shape specifiers in Russian Sign Language: a morphological analysis
This dissertation presents an in-depth analysis of size and shape specifiers in Russian Sign Language (RSL). Size and shape specifiers, or SASSes, are signs widely used in sign languages of the world to describe visual characteristics of objects. Highly iconic, they have been noted to possess a range of peculiar features, such as combining categorical and gradual properties, composing the meaning of the whole out of the meanings of parts, and denoting different characteristics of the object simultaneously (location, orientation, length, width, overall shape, and some others). Despite their extensive use, SASSes received surprisingly little attention in the literature. This dissertation fills this gap in the existing body of knowledge by conducting a thorough analysis of SASSes in RSL. It (1) defines the properties of SASSes that set them aside as a separate group of signs; (2) determines the status of SASSes in the sign language lexicon; (3) compares the way SASSes describe objects with the way(s) spoken languages do. The method of the study entails collecting a corpus of video-recordings with semi-spontaneous signing, which is followed by a detailed phonetic transcription of SASSes occurring in the corpus (overall, 625 tokens) in ELAN. A subsequent feature by feature analysis of structural elements in these signs (namely, handshape, place of articulation, movement, and mouth actions), allows us to establish SASSes as a distinct group with its unique set of properties. This is pioneering research that sets the grounds for the future typological analysis of these signs cross different sign languages.
The Reception of Translated Foreign-Affairs Discourse: China’s International Communication System
Although we know that national image can be highly dependent on the way a country’s foreign-affairs discourse is translated, the communicative effect of translations on real target readers has rarely undergone empirical scrutiny. This research reports on a quasi-experiment where 22 Australian readers were asked to rank different degrees of translator intervention in texts selected from Chinese foreign-affairs discourse. Semi-structured interviews were conducted to examine the readers’ textual comprehension, image of China and reading satisfaction. The readers’ evaluations were then compared with similar evaluations made by 14 Chinese institutional translators. One major finding is that there are major gaps between the communicative effects the translators think they are offering and what their real readers actually receive. The study suggests that reception is a matter of degree: the acceptance of a translation is a complex continuum rather than a simple binary opposition of absolute consensus vs. completed refusal. The readers appear to distinguish ways of legitimizing an “ethically acceptable” translation and they seem disposed to compromise and “satisfice” – i.e. accept translations that they know might be inadequate in terms of linguistic proficiency. Ethical criteria such as perceived accountability, neutrality, and transparency have priority over language-specific solutions that simply conform to target conventions. A trade-off model is proposed in order to explain how a translation is ultimately accepted or refused. The study shows that the readers’ expectations are diverse and sometimes incompatible. This is because when reading a translation, readers are consciously or unconsciously calculating risks and effort at each decision-point. In order to reduce the risks (e.g. of being manipulated or of communicative failures), the readers weigh up the costs and benefits, usually investing more effort in high-risk situations. This study suggests that trust is a powerful mechanism in helping achieve trade-offs and promote cost-effective communication. This is because trust can significantly reduce receptive effort: if the translator is trusted to be “neutral,” “accountable,” or “faithful,” the acceptance of any translator intervention will be much higher. This also explains why a one-size-fits-all translation is neither realistic nor necessary: for different readers, the ways they prioritize risks and make a compromise are different. By analyzing a range of explanatory variables including familiarity with the start culture and the ideological conflicts that might impinge on the reader’s decisions, the study concludes that trust plays a powerful role in reception and can offset various risks involved in translational communication.
A comparative study on the L2 motivations and desired L2 identities of university students of English, Italian and German studies
Despite the remarkable level of research activity in the field of L2 motivation in the past decades, most studies have focussed on learners of global English, who generally pursue the language as part of an educational or professional requirement, to gain membership into a global community and to obtain utilitarian advantages. This literature has not only disregarded more “traditional” learners of English, such as learners of English studies, who study the language as a key area of their degree alongside cultural and literary aspects of specific English-speaking countries, but also LOTE learners, thus leading to the establishment of a “global English bias” in theoretical and empirical advances in the field. In an attempt to challenge this bias, this study presents the first comparative analysis of the L2 motivations and desired L2 identities of students of English studies in Italy and in Germany and of learners of Italian and German studies in Australia. The findings of a questionnaire that elicited both quantitative and qualitative data were triangulated and complemented by a longitudinal component conducted over one academic semester, which consisted of three rounds of interviews and two rounds of diary entries on a fixed sample of learners. Drawing upon mainstream perspectives on L2 motivation as related to processes of identity creation and development, traditional motivational variables and poststructuralist scholarship on L2 learning and identity as related to investment, imagined communities and capital, motivation is conceptualised in this study as a multifaceted and dynamic construct that emerges and develops through the dynamic interaction between learners, their developing identities and the contexts which they inhabit. The findings show that learners’ motivations reflect both their L2-study-related profiles (e.g. their past learning experiences, the degrees in which they were enrolled, their level of L2 proficiency), their existing linguistic capital and the status that each L2 holds on a global scale and in the local L2 learning context: the communicative range and the perceived utilitarian value of each target language, the power associated with the native or advanced knowledge of English, heritage reasons, socio-economic factors, and varying degrees of societal support are some of the key factors which can explain differences in students’ motivations and identity aspirations across sample groups. Despite these differences, however, most L2 learners were engaged in a process of identity construction to claim personally relevant L2 selves as travel-oriented, globally positioned, open-minded and cultivated individuals, regardless of their chosen L2. While their L2 visions tended to be generally stable over time, students reflected on them over time, particularly in terms of their elaborateness, plausibility and harmony with external expectations, with fearing selves also being at play when students worried about not meeting goals. The findings of this research contribute to reducing the gap in the scholarship on EFL and LOTE learners and further our understanding on the link between L2 motivation and processes of identity development.
Words from the Heart: Emotional Expression from Russian-Australian 1.5ers
The bulk of studies on bilingualism and emotions have commonly focussed on multilinguals with a variety of language combinations, language learning trajectories and different cultural backgrounds. This heterogeneity has often been recognised as a limitation of this research area, given that emotion concepts can be language- and culture-specific (Panayiotou, 2006; Sachs & Coley, 2006; Wierzbicka, 1992, 1997, 1999) and emotional expression can vary enormously from one culture to another (Dewaele, 2015a; Kitayama & Markus, 1994; Kovecses, 2003). Despite the repeated calls for further research on bilinguals and multilinguals who learned an LX during childhood (Caldwell-Harris, Staroselsky, Smashnaya & Vasilyeva, 2012; Harris, 2004; Harris, Gleason, & Aycicegi, 2006), most studies have examined multilinguals who learned their LXs late in life, and who are dominant in their L1 (Dewaele, 2010a). Trying to fill these research gaps and combining these various calls for research, the present study examined a group of Russian-Australian sequential bilinguals, born in a Russian-speaking country, who migrated to Australia, or another English-speaking country first, and later to Australia, between the ages of 6 and 12 years. Owing to their age of migration, these speakers have been named as 1.5ers (Rumbaut & Ima, 1988) as they share some characteristics with the first generation, and some with the second generation of migrants, yet are dissimilar to both, and should been examined as a generation on their own – generation 1.5 (Rumbaut, 1997, 2004). This generation of speakers is not homogeneous in terms of language competence (Frodesen, 2002); generally, they have native or almost-native proficiency in their L2, while their L1 proficiency may vary drastically (Portes & Rumbaut, 2001, 2014). The present research explored the emotional speech, perceived language emotional resonance and language choices to express emotions for a group of Russian-Australian 1.5ers, investigated during adulthood. The data collected through a mixed-method approach – fictional narratives and semi-structured debriefing interviews – confirmed the liminality of these speakers. In fact, their emotional speech and use of emotion vocabulary was overall language-appropriate both in L1 and L2, although it showed that it had undergone attrition and restructuring. Their perceptions on language emotionality revealed that the L1 maintained strong emotional connotations, including for those who did not feel very fluent in this language (see, e.g., Dewaele, 2004a, Pavlenko, 2004a). Language choices to express emotions showed a connection with perceived language competence (see, e.g., Dewaele, 2006, 2009, 2010a; Ozanska-Ponikwia, 2012a), except for in the sphere of parenting, which was influenced mainly by the perceived emotionality of the L1, and choices of language maintenance.
The Role of Translators in Contemporary Iran: New Perspectives on Collaboration, Retranslation, and Visibility
Translators in western literature are deemed to be generally invisible. In Iran, instead, literary translators, are highly visible. Their names are almost always embossed on the front cover of translations. They are interviewed and invited to book launches in order to sign their work. They are also recruited as trainers for instructing to-be translators by publishing companies. My project addresses the following questions: 1. Why are translators visible in contemporary Iran? 2. What role do translators play in contemporary Iran? 3. How do translators collaborate with other translators, publishers, editors, authors, and readers? Four circumstances make Iran a particularly interesting case study. The literary field of contemporary Iran is marked by a sharp rise of translations from English into Persian. International copyright laws are not applied in Iran. Retranslations are extremely common in contemporary Iran. The official publishing permit system presents challenges for translators and publishers. In line with sociological approaches to translation, my thesis focuses on the role of translators in contemporary Iran. My findings are based on extensive data collected from primary and secondary resources, paratextual materials, interviews and social media. Paratexts of George Orwell’s Animal Farm and J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter book series were the primary resources that I used for this study. I also conducted oral-history interviews with 10 Iranian literary translators and 5 publishers based in Tehran. To investigate the reception of translations I carried out social media analysis. In order to understand the role of translators, I first assessed translators’ micro-level interactions and collaborations with other translators, publishers and editors. Then, I examined their role in commissioning retranslations and their reasons for retranslating literary works. Translators’ strategies are discussed as a direct response to the publishing permits required for any publication in Iran. Finally, I discussed the legal status of translators in Iran and their strategies of self-presentations and visibility. By offering new evidence from a non-western context, my thesis brings insights into collaboration, retranslation, censorship and visibility in translation studies.
Tense, mood, and aspect expressions in Nafsan (South Efate) from a typological perspective: The perfect aspect and the realis/irrealis mood
In this thesis I study the meaning of tense, mood, and aspect (TMA) expressions in Nafsan (South Efate), an Oceanic language of Vanuatu, from a typological perspective. I focus on the meanings of the perfect aspect and realis/irrealis mood in Nafsan and other Oceanic languages, as case studies for investigating the cross-linguistic features of these TMA categories. Given the diversity of TMA systems in languages of the world, the status of many TMA categories as cross-linguistically valid has been disputed in the linguistic literature. Two such debates concern the cross-linguistic validity of the perfect aspect and the realis/irrealis distinction. Oceanic languages feature some of the most controversial aspects of the semantics of these categories. For instance, many Oceanic languages, including Nafsan, have perfects that denote the meaning of change of state, a property which has recently been attributed to a new TMA category called “iamitive” (Olsson, 2013). Regarding the realis/irrealis distinction, Nafsan and other Oceanic languages are said to express this distinction by portmanteau subject markers. Both the validity of the realis/irrealis mood and its expression by subject markers have been criticized in the literature (Bybee, 1998; Cristofaro, 2012). In order to analyze the meanings of the perfect aspect and the realis/irrealis mood in Nafsan, I studied the Nafsan grammar (Thieberger, 2006) and corpus by Thieberger (1995–2018), followed by my own fieldwork (Krajinovic, 2017b) which relied on semantic elicitation through storyboards (see Burton & Matthewson, 2015) and questionnaires (e.g. Dahl, 2000c). These types of elicitation methods were used to target fine-grained TMA meanings of Nafsan, which were then analyzed through some formal semantic models, such as branching-times, and compared with descriptions of other Oceanic languages through typological methods, such as semantic maps. Regarding the perfect aspect, I found that the Nafsan marker pe has all the functions considered to be typical of the English-style perfect, except for the additional meaning of change of state. I place the analysis of the Nafsan perfect in the debate about the cross-linguistic validity of iamitives, defined by the meaning of change of state akin to ‘already’ and lacking experiential and universal perfect functions (Olsson, 2013). Based on the data from Nafsan and other Oceanic languages, I show that when language-internal processes, such as aspectual coercion, are considered, the semantic definition of perfect aspect proposed by Klein (1994) is sufficient to account for additional perfect functions, without the need to posit the new iamitive category. Moreover, by creating a semantic map of the perfect based the data from five Oceanic languages, I found that the spread of the proposed iamitive functions is not attested in the Oceanic sample studied here, which means that the change-of-state meaning as the proposed core iamitive meaning does not uniquely define this category, which can be taken as evidence against adopting iamitives as a new cross-linguistic category. Regarding the realis/irrealis distinction, expressed by portmanteau subject markers in Nafsan, I have found that the “realis” category is semantically underspecified in Nafsan, as it can occur in irrealis contexts that should be incompatible with realis meanings. I propose that “realis” subject markers are in fact only subject and person marking that occasionally receives realis meanings through pragmatic competition with the irrealis subject markers. This analysis has the potential to explain similar problems attested in other Oceanic languages of Melanesia. By adopting a branching-times model that unites the expression of modality and temporal reference (von Prince, 2019), I show that Nafsan and several other Oceanic languages provide evidence that irrealis as a mood category referring to non-actual worlds is a semantically meaningful category. The contribution of this work is to the areas of TMA semantics, typology, Oceanic languages, language description and methodologies used in language documentation. Besides the theoretical contribution to the understanding of cross-linguistic properties of the perfect aspect and realis/irrealis mood, this thesis can also be used as a methodological guide to testing and assigning linguistic categories in language description and documentation.
Behind the presence of Chinese: the linguistic landscape of Box Hill
With the ongoing trend of globalisation, more attention has been paid to multilingual and multicultural communication in the urban area. Such growing interests have made linguistic landscape (LL) studies, which address languages on public signage, a popular approach to sociolinguistics and social semiotics in the past few years. Previous LL literature has been preoccupied with the spread of English in multilingual cities around the world with little attention to the role of Chinese in the Australian urban context. As such, the current study aims to conduct a LL study concerning the use of Chinese in Box Hill. To achieve this aim, I used photographs of signs, such as street signs, shop names and promotional signs, as the source of data. A multi-layered approach combining quantitative and qualitative analyses are employed to firstly give an overview of the language combinations in Box Hill and secondly dive deeper into the intentions and ideologies underlying linguistic and semiotic choices. Findings of this study show that different signs have their respective language choices and semiotic preferences, and these can be understood in relation to the social context and cultural knowledge. This study revealed the status of Chinese language in an English-dominant environment. It contributed to the field of LL by promoting a multimodal perspective of photographic data, and made an effort to extend multimodal theories to accounting for signs with a Chinese origin. The study has important implications for linguistic and visual literacy. It suggests that language learning should not be based solely on linguistic knowledge, but also include cultural understandings. In addition, visual literacy is as important as linguistic literacy and are key in deciphering the meaning of signs in the modern world.
Examining Automated Corrective Feedback in EFL Writing Classrooms: A Case Study of Criterion
Automated writing evaluation (AWE) systems are increasingly used in classroom settings to provide formative feedback to learners. Yet, there is a scarcity of research evidence about the impact of automated feedback on accuracy development or writing/revision practices and a lack of longitudinal studies into learners’ engagement with automated feedback. This research examines the value of the automated corrective feedback (ACF) generated by ETS Criterion as a learning and assessment tool in the EFL writing classroom. Specifically, it seeks to answer the questions about (1) the nature and accuracy of Criterion ACF; (2) students’ engagement and perceptions; and (3) their changed accuracy following the use of such feedback. The interaction between individual learner factors and their response to Criterion ACF is also investigated in search of explanatory factors for selected cases’ engagement and observed accuracy development over a five-month period. This study adopted a pre-post quasi-experimental design on a sample of 104 English majors divided into two groups: experimental and comparison. During three practice sessions, the comparison group wrote their essays on paper and submitted them to the instructor for feedback. The experimental group, however, composed their writing on Criterion and revised their drafts in response to its feedback before submitting revised drafts to the teacher for feedback. Besides the test essays, data included first and revised drafts from Criterion practice sessions, recorded think-aloud protocols conducted with 14 students as they revised essays using Criterion corrective feedback, stimulated recall interviews and end-of-term focus group interviews. Students’ changes in writing accuracy were calculated using error analysis of the test scripts of the two groups. These were triangulated with the qualitative data of how the students engaged with the feedback from Criterion and their revision practices. Further triangulation came from students’ perceptions of automated feedback in the stimulated recall and focus group interviews. The validation of Criterion ACF as a learning and assessment tool in the EFL writing classroom reveals a mixture of support and rebuttal evidence. Criterion was able to address EFL learners’ needs for surface-level errors, but it still lacked coverage of some major issues in the students’ L2 writing. It can be praised for facilitating revising as well as self-regulatory writing strategies and triggering noticing among the students, but Criterion’s approach to feedback generation was not pedagogically based, resulting in a lack of meaningful engagement with the feedback. Overall, despite students’ positive feelings about Criterion ACF, reservations about its value remain due to learners’ middling revision success rates and the absence of significant intervention or retention effects of the use of Criterion ACF on their accuracy gains over the studied period. The findings extend our understanding about students’ engagement and use of the automated corrective feedback. The study’s main implications relate to formative feedback practices in the classroom, including the need to supplement Criterion automated feedback with teacher feedback to support L2 writing instruction and classroom-based assessment. Also, Criterion corrective feedback should be designed to be more adaptable to focus learners’ attention on the relevant issues for their developmental stage.
'Winged phrases' from Soviet cinema: the use and dynamics of high-frequency film quotations in modern Russian
The focus of this study is ‘winged phrases’ from Soviet cinema; that is, phrases from films, as they make their way into spoken and written Russian and thereby enter the collective consciousness. This research examines the contexts for, as well as how and why, popular winged phrases from Soviet films have been incorporated into contemporary Russian language practice. Drawing on theoretical insights based on the concept of ‘dialogism’ (Bakhtin), the field of semiotics (Lotman, Clark), Propp’s model of the fairy tale and Coulson’s space structuring model, this study analyses four data sets to form a view on these matters: online communications within the “Цитаты советского кино” (Quotations from Soviet cinema) group on the ВKонтакте (VKontakte) social network; responses to an online questionnaire on the matter; posts on the ЯПлакалъ (YaPlakal) online discussion forum and article headings from the prominent Russian newspapers “Комсомольская правда – Москва” (Komsomolskaya Pravda – Moskva / Komsomolʹs Truth – Moscow), “Известия” (Izvestiya / News) and “Литературная газета” (Literaturnaya gazeta / Literary Gazette). This data analysis provides the first detailed description of the use and dynamics of winged phrases from Soviet films in contemporary spoken and written Russian. The study demonstrates that winged phrases from Soviet cinema appear to be taking on a role as a new folklore genre; new contexts of usage and transformation types of such phrases are evident. The study also demonstrates there is value in including winged phrases from Soviet films in the curriculum of Russian taught as a foreign language. Some directions for further research are offered in this respect.
Technology and bilingual education: helping Yolŋu students crack the alphabetic code
Phonological awareness and letter knowledge have a significant and causal relationship with early reading for readers of alphabetic languages. While the existing research regarding the emergent reading skills of mainstream Western populations is vast, little is known about the development of literacy skills among children coming from cultures transmitted primarily through oral tradition. This study examined the emergent literacy skills of students attending a remote bilingual Indigenous school in the Northern Territory, Australia. The study included all Transition (kindergarten) to Grade 4 students enrolled at the participating school. This thesis proposes that phonological awareness, letter knowledge, and early word reading are closely related for children learning to read in Dhuwaya and that phonological awareness training can facilitate the acquisition of early reading ability in Dhuwaya. A Dhuwaya language game-like iPad application software was used as a phonological awareness intervention tool. This Intervention App was specifically designed and created for this thesis project. The Intervention App includes 24 levels that progressively increase in difficulty. Each level consists of a sound segmentation activity, a letter knowledge activity, and a sound blending activity. Letter knowledge, phonological awareness (at both the syllable and phoneme level), and word recognition skills were measured at three separate testing times: immediately before the start of the intervention, immediately after the intervention ended, and six months after the intervention ended. This study investigated the different patterns and relationships found amongst the participants’ performance across the various measures assessed. This study also examined the relationship between student age and assessment performance. The study also investigated the intervention effects, if any, on phonological awareness, letter knowledge, and early word reading. The results indicate that phonological awareness, particularly at the phoneme level, is significantly related to early word recognition in Dhuwaya. Results also suggest that letter knowledge mastery is crucial to early word recognition in Dhuwaya. However, the participants’ letter knowledge, phonemic awareness, and word recognition skills were delayed when compared to the benchmarks proposed in existing research. Phonemic awareness and word recognition scores were particularly low across all three testing times. Post-intervention scores suggest that the Intervention App did not have a significant impact on syllable awareness and letter knowledge skills. However, post-intervention scores suggest that the Intervention App was moderately successful in increasing phonemic awareness skills and that increased phonemic awareness skills may have led to increased word recognition skills. The theoretical and practical implications of the results are discussed in this thesis, as well as suggestions for creating more effective Dhuwaya language emergent literacy IT resources.