Implicit attitudes in L2 motivation research: The case of learning English and Mandarin in Hong Kong

Boo, Peizhen/Zann (2021) Implicit attitudes in L2 motivation research: The case of learning English and Mandarin in Hong Kong. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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The field’s current understanding of L2 motivation is largely reliant on explicit self- reports (e.g. questionnaires and interviews). While such means have provided the L2 motivation field with a wealth of understanding, the underlying assumptions are that such attitudes take place in a conscious manner and that such representations are adequate. Recent developments have discussed these limitations and have called for a more in-depth and holistic understanding of the motivational psyche of L2 learners (e.g. Al-Hoorie, 2016a; Dörnyei, 2020). This thesis seeks to address this research lacuna by arguing for the inclusion of an implicit dimension into L2 motivation research, using the case of Hong Kong as an illustration.

This thesis is first made up of a systemic literature review which provided an empirical understanding of the unprecedented boom in published studies that occurred between 2005 – 2014. Studying the dataset that was made up of 416 publications allowed for an understanding of the L2 methodological and theoretical trends in the literature. While there were several key findings from this empirical review, specific to this thesis, the most significant lies in the identification of the lack of an implicit dimension in the field. Consequently, this shaped the premise for this thesis, namely to set forth the case for a subconscious dimension of L2 motivation research.

The selection of Hong Kong as a research location was motivated by its unique linguistic landscape. In order to better understand the situation, a qualitative pilot study that sought to determine Hong Kong’s viability as a location for unconscious motivation research was carried out. The qualitative results show that indeed, Hong Kong is loaded with ethnolinguistic tension. Regarding the participants’ attitudes towards the three languages, Cantonese was found to be synonymous with the Hong Kong identity and English was seen as a superior language that was associated with prestige and professional opportunities. In comparison, Mandarin held little relevance to the participants’ everyday lives. Upon further investigation, it was found that Fear of Assimilation was the main reason behind the participants’ lacklustre attitudes towards Mandarin. Overall, this qualitative pilot study offered an insight into the complexities underscoring Hong Kong’s unique, and loaded, linguistic environment; confirming Hong Kong’s suitability as a research location for this implicit line of research.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Dörnyei, Zoltán
Schmitt, Norbert
Keywords: second lanaguage learning, English language, Mandarin language, learning motivation
Subjects: P Language and literature > P Philology. Linguistics
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Arts > School of English
Item ID: 66907
Depositing User: Boo, Peizhen
Date Deposited: 05 Nov 2021 09:47
Last Modified: 05 Nov 2021 09:47

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