Dr. Benjamin White
Assistant Professor, Department of English







B.A. (Modern European History), University of Miami
M.A. (East European Contemporary Studies), University of London
M.Ed. (Multicultural Education), University of Massachusetts
Ph.D. (Second Language Studies), Michigan State University


Dr. White's research investigates the English article system. In his article, "In Search of Systematicity: A Conceptual Framework for the English Article System," Dr. White examined the challenges English articles pose to both ESL (English as a second language) learners and teachers.  His research project set out to achieve three main objectives: (1) to identify how articles are currently explained by ESL textbooks and teachers, (2) to propose a systematic perspective through which to interpret article meaning, and (3) to examine how exposure to this new perspective influences the ways international M.A. TESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages) students with article-less first languages (L1s) explain articles.


Toward the first objective, two ESL grammar books and one article workbook were reviewed for how they present articles to readers. Additionally, an experiment was carried out in which twelve ESL teachers wrote explanations for twenty examples of article use found in authentic texts. Confidence levels were also rated for each explanation. Patterns across teachers’ explanations were identified, and results were discussed in terms of what they imply about the current practice of article instruction.


Toward the second objective, a conceptual framework was created. Through this framework, all uses of the map to the same abstract schematic image, all uses of "a" and unstressed "some" map to a second schematic image, and all uses of the zero article (Ø) map to a third schematic image. This framework was applied to a range of article uses as well as pedagogical rules for article use, and implications for linguistic theory and classroom practice were discussed.


Toward the final objective, five M.A. TESOL students with L1s of Korean, Thai, and Chinese were introduced to the framework through a series of training sessions. The participants’ explanations of examples of article use in authentic texts before and after exposure to the framework were analyzed for changes. It was found that post-exposure explanations were more unified across individual article uses. Results were discussed in light of what they suggest about the potential use of the framework as pedagogical aid in the classroom.


Dr. White plans to pursue three broad areas of research. First, he will continue to investigate the topic of articles. He plans to evaluate the effectiveness of the conceptual framework when introduced in ESL classes of various levels. In addition, Dr. White would like to explore semantic distinctions between article use in English and in Spanish, adapt the framework so that it illustrates such differences, and investigate use of the framework by L2 learners of Spanish. More than a pedagogical tool, he believes the framework serves well as a classification system for article use. In fact, he hopes to shed new light on article acquisition by analyzing L2 English learners’ use of articles in written and oral production over time. In a second area of research, he will continue to employ insights from linguistics and sociocultural theory in order to create and develop tools for the teaching of English grammar, in particular the determiner and tense/aspect systems. Finally, in efforts to promote action research, he plans to investigate how such research influences language teacher cognition – including teachers’ confidence, beliefs, pedagogical knowledge, and classroom awareness.


Dr. White currently teaches Introduction to Linguistics and Special Topics: TESOL Curriculum Development and Materials Design.


Dr. White is a member of the American Association for Applied Linguists, the International Cognitive Linguistics Association, and TESOL. He has spent a great deal of time working on the curriculum for the new M.A. in English with the TESOL emphasis.  This new M.A. has been approved and will begin in Fall 2011.


Contact Info
Telephone: (304) 696-2357
Email: whitebe@marshall.edu