Investigating the Acquisition of Russian Motional Prefixes in L1 English Speakers
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Many Russian language teachers have claimed Verbs of Motion (VoM) and their affiliated prefixes to be an exceptionally difficult category for native English speakers to learn. Evidence for this, however, has been primarily anecdotal, and Second Language Acquisition (SLA) researchers have only recently started to conduct empirical investigations of the domain. The present study aimed to review the current body of empirical literature adapting methods from meta-analysis. Although metaanalyses traditionally rely on statistical analyses, the present study used the format of a meta-analysis coding sheet to organize relevant variables and narrative results. Gaps in the coding sheet indicated potential areas for new research perspectives and designs. The results were organized into categories based on the independent variables of linguistic feature, speaker type, and task modality. Linguistic features were considered because there are errors that can originate from the grammatical differences of Russian and English in addition to potential issues caused by the internal complexities of multiple grammatical features appearing on a single verb form. Aspect was of particular interest in the present study because the Russian VoM have a different aspectual paradigm than other Russian verbs. The coding sheet indicated that attempting to control for specific grammatical features was often outside the scope of the studies used in the meta-analysis. Comparing different speaker types—particularly second language and heritage learners—gave insight into how age of acquisition and language exposure affects acquisition. The present study only included one study on heritage speakers, but went on to hypothesize why incorporating other research methodologies into heritage speakers studies might be useful. Lastly, task modality shows how proficiencies in various skills, such as speaking, comprehension, or metalinguistic knowledge, could be mismatched. Regarding this variable, one of the main points that the coding sheet highlighted was that the studies used in the meta-analysis were mostly studies on production skills. Overall, these results indicated that the current body of research might benefit from a) research designs that control for both VoM-specific and nonspecific verbal features; b) consideration of the role of explicit and implicit knowledge in the comparison of heritage and second language speakers; and c) more research designs that target comprehension and metalinguistic skills. The scope of the study can potentially apply to broader SLA theory, Russian language pedagogy, and language typology theories. New directions include extending the literature review with the incorporation of adult first language studies and conducting new SLA experiments on the topic.