Interlanguage variability in verb tense/aspect

  • D.S.L. Cheah

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis presents a study of interlanguage variability in the use of three tense/aspect forms: the simple present, simple past, and the present perfect. The need for research in this area comes from the problems encountered in the classroom. Language performance in one task sometimes does not reflect that in another. How and why this ocurrs is what this thesis aims to discover. A preliminary study explores the viability of using the Labovian variable model to elicit and explain variability. Difficulties highlight problems which help refine the methodology used in the main study. A review of past research point the direction in which this study should go. Armed with a sample of 17 Chinese Singaporean university students, whose first language is Chinese or a dialect of Chinese, the investigation began with the elicitation of variability to be found in four tasks. Using the attention-to-speech framework, these four tasks are designed to reflect varying degrees of required attention to language form. The results show that there is variability in the use of tense/aspect in all the tasks. However, the framework on which the tasks are based cannot explain the variability pattern. Further analyses of contextual factors, primarily pragmatic ones, point to a complex interplay of factors affecting the variability found in the results.
Date of Award1993
Original languageEnglish


  • Interlanguage variability
  • verb tense/aspect

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