Avoidance in Processing English Non-restrictive Relative Clauses in Thai EFL Learners’ Interlanguage

  •  Sonthaya Rattanasak    
  •  Supakorn Phoocharoensil    


This paper examined the acquisition of English non-restrictive relative clauses (NRCs) by L1 Thai learners, focusing on avoidance strategies applied in the learners’ interlanguage. The theoretical frameworks of the Noun Phrase Accessibility Hierarchy (NPAH) and the Perceptual Difficulty Hypothesis (PDH) were the main hypotheses predicting avoidance behavior employed by the learners. The research participants were 80 Thai EFL high school students of high and low proficiency levels. The data were elicited through a sentence combination task and a Thai-English translation task. The findings, overall, suggested that Thai EFL learners, by and large, avoided using the more marked NRC types in the NPAH. The learners’ avoidance was evident in the tasks from the shifting of more marked types to less marked ones. The findings also showed that the more advanced learners tended to employ more avoidance behavior with regard to the NPAH, which may be attributed to their greater exposure to the L2 rules and more knowledge of the differences between the L1 and L2 structures; this resulted in the use of alternative ways to complete the given tasks more easily. The center-embedded NRCs, more precisely, were found to be problematic for learners, which supports the prediction of the PDH that clauses embedded after the subject positions may interrupt the processing of a complex structure of RCs. The learners, therefore, avoided center embedding and changed it to right embedding with little awareness of the ungrammaticality of the NRC sentences.

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