Languages, Literatures, & Cultures Theses and Dissertations

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    (2023) Blank, Samuel Galen; Frisch, Andrea; Mahalel, Adi; French Language and Literature; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    This dissertation studies the role of marginalized desire in the works of Swiss-French author Albert Cohen; specifically, marginalized desire within same-sex and Jewish-Christian interfaith relationships, which have historically been deemed socially and religiously corrupt and therefore have been seen to constitute boundaries to spiritual legitimacy. Therefore, this study seeks to understand why Cohen grants such marginalized desires the same spiritual legitimacy as mainstream desire in his novels, and what can be learned from the effects of this decision. Albert Cohen’s relationship to marginalization is explored across the various chapters, which address immigration, oscillations between tradition and modernity, and curiosity towards same-sex and interfaith couplehood. The final chapter of this dissertation presents a pedagogical implementation of this material. Initially perceived as an outsider, Albert Cohen used imaginative literature to compensate for this supposed errant state, as he actively sought to conquer French culture and forge his place in the Francophone Europe of the 20th century. The result is a novel that creates a refraction of pluralistic Judaism with an affirming spirituality, one that showcases the common righteousness in all of humanity. For Cohen, this righteousness exists beyond cultural constructions such as nationality, religion, or sexual orientation. Inspired by his own life experiences, the author depicts same-sex attraction as just beyond his complete ability to conquer, in essence just beyond his world, which is synonymous with the Eternal. Ultimately, this spiritual elevation of marginalized desire conducted by the author reflects a proximity to God that is possible regardless of social and cultural boundaries to spirituality.
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    Individual Variables in Context: A Longitudinal Study of Child and Adolescent English Language Learners
    (2023) Struck, Jason; Jiang, Nan; Clark, Martyn; Second Language Acquisition and Application; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    Millions of public-school students in the United States are identified as English language learners (ELLs), whose academic success is tied to their second language (L2) English education. Previous research in adult populations indicates that L2 proficiency is related to the contextual variable of the prevalence of one’s first language (L1) among their peers, called L1 density, which may also moderate the effects of individual variables such as age and exposure to the L2. Despite its substantial impact on the amount and quality of adult learners’ exposure to the L2, the variable of L1 density has received little attention in child and adolescent populations, even though it is unknown what role, if any, L1 density plays in L2 acquisition in a school context. Other outstanding questions concerning individual variables include the nature of the purported rate advantage of later starters and whether the similarity of one's L1 and L2 is related to L2 proficiency.The current study addressed these questions by analyzing longitudinal L2 proficiency assessment records of 10,879 ELLs in grades 1–12 in the United States. The assessment was WIDA's ACCESS for ELLs Online Test, a national, standardized test with scores for each of the four domains of listening, reading, speaking, and writing. Multilevel models were used to estimate the effects of several variables: age of enrollment in a United States school, length of enrollment, language similarity, and L1 density. In the fitted model estimates, age of enrollment had a small, positive effect. Length of enrollment had a sizable, positive effect but attenuated over time. ELLs enrolling at a later age progressed slightly slower than ELLs enrolling at an earlier age, contrary to the widely accepted notion that later starters enjoy a rate advantage. Little to no evidence was found for a relationship between test scores and language similarity or L1 density, or that the effects of age of enrollment or length of enrollment varied with L1 density. The results of this study give evidence for the following conclusions for ELLs in United States schools: an earlier age of enrollment is associated with greater gains in L2 proficiency over time, speakers of different L1s are not expected to become differentially proficient in L2 English, and ELLs’ levels of L2 proficiency are not expected to vary with how many of their peers speak the same L1.
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    (2023) Rhoades, Elizabeth Rogler; Gor, Kira; Clark, Martyn; Second Language Acquisition and Application; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    Although decades of research within the field of second language acquisition have been dedicated to investigating the impact of individual differences on second language learners’ success, longitudinal research focused on individual differences and their impact on adult second language acquisition is extremely limited. Additional longitudinal research on individual differences is necessary to further our understanding of the nature of the process of adult second language acquisition. This area of research is also critical to the U.S. Government and the Department of Defense as thousands of military service members work in language-related positions, and these service members’ maintenance of high levels of language proficiency is critical for our nation’s national security. The current study used a longitudinal design to investigate the impact of individual differences such as general cognitive ability, language aptitude, and attitude toward learning assigned second language (L2) on military service members’ language proficiency outcomes. Latent growth curve modeling (LGM) was used to model participants’ initial proficiency levels and growth trajectories, and measures of cognitive ability, language aptitude, and attitude toward learning assigned L2 were used to measure the impact of these individual differences on language proficiency outcomes. Additional variables including GPA, age, education level, number of language training hours, billet type, and sex were also included in the analyses. The results from the four phases of analyses support the conclusion that the predictive value of individual difference factors on language proficiency outcomes differ not only by DLI Language Difficulty Category, as suggested by previous research, but also by language and even language modality.
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    (2022) Battauz, Cecilia Edith; Sosnowski, Saúl; Spanish Language and Literature; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    As a result of Spanish colonization, nation-building in Latin America followed distinctive and diverse processes, and a protracted chronology that spanned an entire century. The new nation-states that emerged from the nineteenth century wars of Independence forged their own symbols, imagery, and foundational narratives to provide a framework to disparate populations. Throughout the continent, literature played a fundamental role in the construction of symbolic narratives, which inexorably intertwined with official national history. In Argentina, one such myth was built around the “gaucho”, the cowboy of the Pampas plains who freely roamed the countryside. Once an actual social type, the “gaucho” disappeared around the end of the 19th Century due to changes introduced by modernization as Argentina transformed and refocused its economy to supply raw materials for European industries. As a literary figure, however, the gaucho survived as the dominant character of poems, novels, and short stories that conform a unique national literary genre: Gauchesca Literature.In my dissertation I study the comics Inodoro Pereyra, el renegau by Roberto Fontanarrosa (1944-2007), which features an atypical gaucho accompanied by his loyal talking dog. I analyze how Fontanarrosa deconstructs the national literary myth of the horse riding “gaucho” unveiling the inherent racism, social injustice, and ideological manipulation it has conveyed for the last two centuries. Fontanarrosa’s creation, which appeared regularly in the Argentine press and in book format for over thirty-four years until the author’s death, not only denounces the unspoken influence this traditional figure has had in shaping Argentine society, but it also highlights the common misrepresentation of indigenous communities and the unfair treatment to which they have been, and continue to be, subjected. Using parody, humor, and caricature, the comics revise national history and canonical literature along with artifacts from contemporary popular culture, such as films and folk songs. In addition, it offers a postmodern approach to the foundational narratives of the nation. My claims are that the comics offer an ex-centric perspective and that its subversive message defies traditional views of identity as fixed forms that could be predetermined. I propose that the narrative genre of comics—still marginalized from the literary canon—constitutes an excellent medium to present an alternative and irreverent approach to the subject, since its literary standing challenges the centrality of the official canon. At the same time, the comics suggest the need to see tradition and identity as concepts under constant change, thus showing a postmodern critique to monolithic grand narratives. Although my study concerns Argentine society, I believe it to be microstructurally significant for its premises may be applied to other societies built upon national myths, such as those created by most nation-states in the Americas after gaining their independence from colonial administration and cultural hegemony.
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    Variation in Interlanguage: Evidence from Internal and External Patterning of Morphosyntactic Variability in the Speech of Second Language Learners
    (2022) Zheng, Qi; Jiang, Nan; Second Language Acquisition and Application; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    Language is inherently variable, and learner language is particularly variable. The variationist paradigm considers learner language a heterogeneously variable yet inherently rule-governed system. Specifically, learners’ alternation between native-like and nonnative-like variants of a variable or invariable target native speaker (NS) form constitutes learner language variation. Variation is also viewed as an indication of a transitional phase towards acquisition (e.g., Regan, 2013; Tagliamonte, 2011). With a particular concentration on second language (L2) morphosyntactic variation, this dissertation explored inter-learner variation and intra-learner variability together with interlanguage development by analyzing Japanese L2 learners’ oral performances in English oral proficiency interviews. The research observed and studied the variation pattern in the interview data and identified the linguistic, paralinguistic, and nonlinguistic factors and factor groups which may give rise to Japanese L2 learners’ repeated exercise of their interlanguage grammar for four morphosyntactic features: preposition/particle, article, object pronoun-dropping, and modal auxiliary verb. The data were analyzed by using classification trees, random forests, and mixed-effects variable rule methods which together identified a hierarchy of variable importance among potential factors and factor groups and the influential factor levels within each significant factor group. With modern mixed models, the dissertation concluded that the observed morphosyntactic variation is subject to inter-lingual and intra-learner factors. Additionally, learners may also have individualized baselines and grammar. More importantly, the findings of the current research have provided important theoretical and empirical justification on whether and how individual patterns mirror the interlanguage patterns and hence an inter-lingual developmental understanding of L2 morphosyntactic competence.