Research Projects

  • English Lexical and Syntactic Development of Hong Kong Students at Key Stages of Their Education
  • MA Kuen Fong Beatrice, MCNEILL Arthur, TSUI Anthony*, Conrad Scott-Curtis*
    1 December 2004
    CUHK Research Committee Funding (Direct Grants)

    This research aims to examine aspects of Hong Kong students’ developing competence in English writing. The research involves the analysis of samples of English writing produced under examination conditions by students at five key stages of their education, ranging from upper primary to tertiary. Relatively little is known about the productive second language lexicon and syntactic ability of younger learners and how these develop over time. By carrying out comparative analyses of writing samples from different age groups, it is hoped to identify patterns of growth as well as areas where L2 development appears to be problematic.
    Recent research in second language vocabulary and writing has made use of computer software to produce vocabulary profiles of student writing (e.g. Laufer & Nation 1995, Laufer 1995). Written output is analysed in terms of frequency bands which show the distribution of high and low-frequency vocabulary. So far such research has tended to focus on the writing of tertiary level students. Studies of the grammatical competence of Hong Kong students have not examined the way in which different grammatical features are acquired over time. A reasonable assumption might be that syntactic complexity increases systematically over an extended period of learning the language. However, research in second language acquisition (e.g. Patkowski 1980; deKeyser 2000) suggests that the age at which 12 learning starts may have an important bearing upon successful acquisition of syntax. The analysis will focus, in particular on the acquisition of conditionals and will examine the suggestion by Celce-Murcia and Larsen-Freeman (1999) that acquisition of the English tense-aspect system, modal auxiliaries and negation is a pre-requisite for acquiring the full range of English conditionals. (AL04374)

  • Specifying the Vocabulary Content of the English Language Curriculum for Primary and Secondary Schools
  • MCNEILL Arthur, MA Kuen Fong Beatrice
    3 January 2006
    Curriculum Development Institute, Education and Manpower Bureau, HKSAR Government

    The project, which is to be conducted collaboratively by the Curriculum Development Institute (CDI) and the English Language Teaching Unit (ELTU), aims to develop an English vocabulary syllabus for primary and secondary schools in Hong Kong. Although the current curriculum documents for English Language in Hong Kong schools recognize the central importance of vocabulary, they do not specify the actual lexical content to be covered. Recent concerns about inadequate vocabulary among school leavers have prompted the establishment of a vocabulary syllabus which will aim to ensure that students acquire around 5000 English words by the time they leave secondary school. The project will attempt to identify the English words which students might be expected to know at the various Key Stages. Tangible outcomes of the project are wordlists for each of the four Key Stages, arranged alphabetically, by families and thematically, together with paradigmatic groupings of words, where appropriate. The lexical content will be identified with reference to: (a) the topic areas specified by the curriculum, (b) frequency data about words from existing large-scale corpora, and (c) the vocabulary content of school textbooks. Focus groups consisting of practising school teachers will consider the proposed selections and provide feedback on their suitability. Once the wordlists are established, a teacher.s guide will be developed for each Key Stage, aimed at promoting teachers. interest and confidence in handling vocabulary in their teaching. It is envisaged that a second phase of the project will address the pedagogical issues related to the new vocabulary content. (ED05805)

Research Publications

  • "Language Policy at The Chinese University of Hong Kong". Invited paper presented at the Symposium on Language Issues n English-medium Universies Across Asia, Hong Kong SAR: The University of Hong Kong, 2006.06.09.

  • "Raising English Language Standards in Hong Kong" (co-authored with BERRY Vivien). Language Policy, vol.4. Boston: Springer, 2005. pp.371-394.

* Name of external researcher
# Name of staff who has left the University