The interaction of verb regularity, L1 and task in the language of Mandarin and Tamil-speaking ESL learners

Mike Tiittanen


Previous research indicates that ESL learners use irregular past tense verbs more accurately than regular past tense verbs in English, particularly in their oral production. The study reported here examined the level of accuracy in the use of English regular past tense verbs and irregular past tense verbs of two groups of learners of English whose L1 was Mandarin and Tamil respectively. The results reveal that irregular verbs were sometimes used more accurately than regular verbs although this accuracy is influenced by type of task and participant L1. There was no difference in the accuracy of regular or irregular verb use for either group on a task which was designed to elicit explicit, declarative knowledge of the simple past tense. However, the Mandarin L1 group was more accurate with irregular verb use than with regular verb use on both oral tasks while the Tamil L1 group was more accurate with irregular verbs than regular verbs on only one of the oral tasks.


regular verbs; irregular verbs; L1 influence; Mandarin; Tamil

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