Corpus-based study on the use of conversational Persian by learners of Persian
Conversational Persian, or Colloquial Persian as it is also referred to, is at its early stages of receiving attention in the field of Teaching Persian as a Second Language. However, research on the use of Conversational Persian by learners of Persian remains scarce. Therefore, this study aims to explore the use of Conversational Persian by language learners using a novel methodology in this field, namely, by using a corpus-based methodology. To this end, after performing a pilot study, first, a spoken learner corpus, namely, the Learner of Persian Spoken Corpus (LoPSC) was compiled. LoPSC is the first spoken corpus collected from learners of Persian. It is also the first learner corpus in Persian focusing specifically on Conversational Persian. Data from LoPSC consists of approximately 40,000 words of transcribed audio recordings from conversations between advanced learners of Persian in the UK. After the compilation of LoPSC, to gain a better understanding of the use of the linguistic forms used by the learners, LoPSC was compared to a reference corpus, namely, the Conversational Persian Corpus. This corpus consists of 60,000 words of audio-transcribed recordings from conversations between first language speakers of Persian living in Iran. In addition to a comparative corpus-based methodology, this study also conducted interviews with learners of Persian to further investigate the factors influencing the differences between learner and first language speaker production of Conversational Persian. The results from this study showed that the most significant difference between the use of Conversational Persian by learners and first language speakers of Persian was the word choice of these two groups of speakers. This difference in word choice was significantly reflected in the use of different discourse markers. In addition, the use of corpus analytical tools showed significant differences in one category of Vague Language, namely, the use of Vague Category Markers. Learners and first language speakers not only used Vague Category Markers differently regarding frequency but variations in forms were also found. Finally, the findings from the interviews with the learners revealed that in addition to factors such as possible first language transfer and the influences of learner language itself, the learners also displayed certain negative attitudes toward using linguistic forms associated with Conversational Persian. This study has three main contributions. First, it provides empirical findings in a novel context, namely, the use of Conversational Persian by learners. Second, this study also provides further empirical evidence on how learners use discourse markers and Vague Category Markers in Conversational Persian. Finally, as the first study to compile and analyse a spoken learner corpus in Persian, this study also provides insights into the challenges when compiling a learner corpus in this language, especially regarding the conversational register of Persian. From the empirical and methodological contributions and findings of this study stem implications for textbook developers for Conversational Persian, Persian Language Instructors, learners of Persian and researchers in this field. This study has direct pedagogical implications by not only providing further insight into the actual use of Conversational Persian by learners but also their perceptions regarding this register. This insight, especially, highlights the forms that require further emphasis when developing teaching material for this specific register. The learner corpus developed in this study provides methodological implications by providing a dataset that can assist future research in this field.
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