Date of Award

1-1-2003

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Faculty

Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences

First Advisor

Associate Professor Graham McKay

Second Advisor

Professor Ian Malcom

Abstract

This is an analytical study which attempted to investigate Thai students' ability to interpret elliptical sentences and to recover and recognise ellipted elements in a science and technology context in English. Students' awareness, understanding, perceptions, problems and strategies in relation to ellipsis were also examined. The subjects for the study were 60 first year students from King Mongkut's Institute of Technology North Bangkok (KMITNB) who had enrolled in two compulsory English courses in KMITNB, Bangkok, Thailand. The instruments for this study were three 20 item ellipsis tests based on 5 ellipsis types classified by Quirk, et al. (1985). Items of the test were based on short passages extracted from three English science and technology textbooks commonly assigned for students to read during their study at KMITNB: physics, mathematics, and computer textbooks, The content of all tests was the same but different tasks were required to be done. The subjects were asked to interpret the elliptical sentences and rated the level of difficulty of each item in the first test, the interpretation test. After each item, they were requested to tape-record or write their answers to the questions why they interpreted that way and what helped them to do so. For the second test, the recovery test, students were asked to supply the English ellipted elements in the blanks provided and to tape-record or write their responses to the questions why they supplied such word(s) and what helped them to do so. The third test, the recognition test, was the same as the second but multiple choice answers were provided. Students also had to say why the choice they had made was suitable. The collected data was analysed quantitatively and qualitatively. Arithmetic mean, percentage, Man-Whitney U test, median and correlation were employed to analyse the data, using SPSS software. The study reveals that the students could score best in the interpretation test as they were allowed to answer in L1 and a variety of answers that conveyed the right or close meaning were acceptable. The recognition test was scored the second best while the recoverability test was scored the lowest. However, no mean score of any test reached half of the total. Moreover in counting tho correct number, they averaged at 7.90, 3.88, and 7.45 out of 20 items in tests 1, 2, and 3 respectively. Ellipsis type 5, structural ellipsis without precise recoverability, was found to be the most difficult for Thai students. The quantitative findings indicated that the students in the field of science and technology in Thailand were poor at ellipsis employed in science and technology textbooks. The qualitative investigation confirmed that the students were neither aware of nor capable of understanding most elliptical sentences. Difference between L1 and L2 was the major problem found hindering students' ability to handle ellipsis, Low English proficiency, insufficient and in-complete L2 grammatical knowledge, insufficient L2 vocabulary, incomplete recall of L2 instruction, inability to access deep structure, misreading of anaphora, pragmatic misreading and incomplete background knowledge of subject matter were found to be internal factors causing students' difficulty in-dealing with ellipsis. Transfer of training leading to students' overgeneralisation, language transfer resulting in interlanguage, conceptual influence across cultures, conceptual difference across sub-cultures, ambiguity of some structural cues, English hyponyms, and lack of intensive ellipsis instruction were external factors causing students' inability to solve ellipsis problems. Apart from the obstacles, two factors were found to support students in doing ellipsis tests. They were similarity of L1 and L2 and some L1 unelliptible words equivalent to English ellipted elements. The analysis also revealed some strategies students employed in handling ellipsis. Among these, structural and contextual cues, and word for word translation were frequently used. The findings of the study supported the first hypothesis which was that the students' difficulties in interpreting elliptical sentences and recovering ellipted elements can be related to (a) L1 transfer (b) reading strategies. But they did not support the second hypothesis which was that degree of difficulty in retrieval of ellipsis, based on Quirk, et al's (1985) principles, relates to degree of difficulty in interpretation. Constraints due to students' test fatigue and boredom may partially have affected students' ability in doing the tests.

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