INTERPRETATION OF SYNTACTIC AMBIGUITY IN ENGLISH SENTENCES AS DEMONSTRATED BY HIGH AND LOW COMPETENCE THAI LEARNERS

Authors

  • Suwicha Thaworn Faculty of Arts, Chulalongkorn University

Keywords:

การตีความ, ความกำกวม, ประสบการณ์ทางภาษาอังกฤษ

Abstract

The objective of this research is to analyze and compare Englishsentence syntactic ambiguities with their interpretations by native speakers and English language learners. Thirty ambiguous English sentences were used as the foundation for the study; divided into three types: simple sentences, compound sentences and complex sentences. Three sample groups were set up: 1) 10 native speakers; 2) 20 non-native students with high English language competence; 3) 20 non-native students with low English language competence. The results showed that the native speakers correctly interpreted 96.8% of the ambiguous English sentences. The high competence languagelearners correctly interpreted 93% of the ambiguous English sentences,and the low competence English language learners correctly interpreted 69.25% of the ambiguous English sentences. The high competence English language group was able to interpret the ambiguous English sentences to a similar success rate as the native speaker group, and far more successfully than the low competence English language learner group. The difference between the native speaker group and the high competence group was not statisticallysignificant (P= 0.152) whereas the difference between the native speaker group and the low competence group was statistically significant (P= 0.00). The difference between the high competence group and the low competence group was also highly significant (P= 0.00).The differences between the low competence/high competence groups and the high competence/native speaker groups was also shown to be statistically significant (F = 82.479, P = 0.00). The study demonstrates that second language learner levels of competence affects the ability to interpret ambiguous English sentences. This study highlights the problem ‘interpretation of ambiguity’ and offers some suggestions for English language instruction.

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References

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