Slot:       28D-8          Dec. 28, 3:45 p.m. – 5:45 p.m.                                                

Panel:     Studies in Second Language Acquisition

Chair:     Maria Alley, Ohio State University


Title:       The Effect of Second Language Instruction on Acquisition of Relative Clauses in the Russian Language

Author:   Valentina Dunn, Brigham Young University

The purpose of this research project is to test the predictions of the Accessibility Hierarchy theory (Keenean & Comrie, 1977) applying it to the Russian language. According to this theory, syntactic linguistic features and relative clauses in particular are acquired in a fixed order from the highest position (S - subject), which is considered more susceptible to relativization to the lowest position (OPOSS - possessive), which is less susceptible. The present study attempts to determine if learners are able to make generalizations about more susceptible RC positions and produce them after receiving instruction only on a relatively more complex and less susceptible relative clause position (OPREP – object of preposition).

Participants of the study are Brigham Young University students studying Russian as a second language. Two groups, the control group (n=10) and the experimental group (n=20), completed pre-test and post-tests each of which included two elicitation tasks: a grammaticality judgment test and a combination test. Both groups received instruction between the tests. The control group received instruction on the subject (S), the direct object (DO), and the indirect object (IO) relative clause positions. The experimental group received instruction only on the object of preposition (OPREP) position. The purpose of the research project is to determine how the type of instruction can effect relative clause acquisition. The preliminary results show that participants who were instructed in OPREP relative clause position performed better on the post- test than those who were instructed only on S, DO, and IO relative clause positions.



Gass, S. (1981). From theory to practice. Proceedings of the Fifteenth Annual Conference

     of Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages. Michigan, 129-139.

Keenan, E. L., & Comrie, B. (1977). Noun phrase accessibility and universal grammar.

     Linguistic Inquiry, 8(1), 63-99.


Title:       Tykajut, Tychut, or Tychajut: The One-Stem Verb System in Pedagogical Grammar Versus Internalized Learner Grammar

Author:   Kira Gor, University of Maryland

Since the publication of Jakobson’s seminal paper proposing a description of the Russian verb system based on a single stem (Jakobson 1948), the debates regarding psycholinguistic reality of this description for native and non-native speakers and its pedagogical usefulness have continued. They take the shape both of overt scholarly discussions and covert competition between the textbooks, which make use of either the one- or two-stem verb systems. In recent years, this issue has received renewed interest due to the increased focus on the learner in the field of teaching and to advances in empirical psycholinguistic research on the processing of inflectional morphology.

The present paper reports the results of a series of experiments on the processing of Russian verbal morphology by adult American learners of Russian. It compares the learner data to the parallel data on native Russian adults, who have an internalized fully developed conjugational system, and Russian children ages 4-6, whose internal grammar has not yet stabilized. The data were collected in a real and nonce verb generation task. The material involved the verbs belonging to the -aj-, -a-, -i-, and -ova- classes according to the one-stem verb system ranging in frequency, productivity, and morphological complexity. The subjects were beginning and intermediate American college-level students of Russian who had studied Russian for one, two, and several years. The results of the study shed new light on the development of the conjugational system in American learners of Russian and demonstrate the functioning and interplay of rule-based and probabilistic mechanisms in verbal processing. The paper uses the conclusions of the empirical study to address the benefits of the one-stem verb system in its pedagogical applications to the Russian language classroom.


Jakobson, R. O. (1948). Russian conjugation.  Word 4, 155-167.


Title:       The Acquisition of the Instrumental Case in Second Year Learners of Russian: A Balance between Function and Form

Author:   Meghan Murphy-Lee, Military Academy at West Point

Although there has been much discussion in recent years on the presentation and acquisition of Russian grammatical forms, only limited research has been published which gives instructors specific information on the order of acquisition of case forms and functions.  Murphy-Lee (2003) notes that among intermediate-level learners of Russian there are many inconsistencies in case acquisition.  For example, she found that although the instrumental case is introduced late in the first year or early in the second year of instruction, students appear to produce the morphological ending of the instrumental case surprisingly accurately but only in extremely limited contexts.  For the most part, these learners used the instrumental case in set phrases: летом, вечером, зимой.  The instrumental case was rarely used in the predicative position and also rarely used in other contexts such as passive voice.  In this paper, I will presents the results of my preliminary research where I will attempt to determine in which contexts learners can accurately produce these morphological endings and to what degree the usage is consistent throughout the third semester of instruction.

In order to determine this, I will conduct a semester long study of the second year learners at a major university. As part of this study, I will test their knowledge of both the morphological endings of the instrumental case and the contexts in which this case is necessary.  The learners will be examined three times in the fall semester.  Once these data are collected, I will analyze them to determine how the learners produce these morphological endings in various contexts and how these results compare to previous research on the instrumental case and case acquisition in general.  I hope that these results will lead to a long-term study of the development of case acquisition of learners of Russian at the intermediate level.



Gibson, M. (1984). Some Changes in the Use of the Instrumental Case. Russian

     Language Journal, 38 (129-30), 25-35.

Murphy-Lee, M. (2003). A Description and Analysis of the Interlanguage of Second

     Year Students of Russian: Evidence from Electronic Dialogue Journals. Doctoral

     Dissertation, University of Kansas.

Rubinstein, G. (1995). On Acquisition of Russian Cases by American Classroom

     Learners.  IRAL, 33 (1), 9-34.

Thompson, I. (1980). “Acquisition of Cases by Students of Russian: A Preliminary  

     Investigation.”  Russian Language Journal, 34 (117), 43-52.