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Optionality and overgeneralisation patterns in second language acquisition: Where has the expletive ensconced «it»self?

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Nadia Varley

This book discusses the nature of optionality in second language grammars and the indeterminacy observed in second language users’ linguistic representations. For these purposes, experimental data from 213 learners of German and 150 learners of Russian have been collected and analysed with a special focus on the acquisition of various «subjectless» and impersonal constructions as well as argument licensing. Whereas voice alternations and argument licensing are topics amply discussed in theoretical domains, their practical implementation within second language research has remained a research lacuna. This piece of work intends to fill the gap.

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1. Introduction .................................................................................................23 1.1 Addressing the object of enquiry ..........................................................24 1.1.1 The two (pivotal) “whys” in this book ........................................ 28 1.2 Outline ......................................................................................................32 2. Argument licensing and voice alternations ...................................33 2.1 Theoretical background ..........................................................................33 2.1.1 Argument licensing, argument structure and voice alternations ................................................................... 34 2.1.2 Is the subject an argument of its verb? ....................................... 36 2.2 Unaccusativity ..........................................................................................40 2.2.1 Unaccusative morphology and syntax: Form vs. structure...... 43 2.2.2 Argument structure in passives and other unaccusatives ........ 47 2.2.3 So who (or what) is the subject of impersonals? ....................... 50 2.3 Case and agreement in impersonals .....................................................54 2.3.1 Default agreement and morphological underspecification in impersonals .............................................. 54 2.3.2 Acc licensing and Cause/Voice parameterisation .................. 57 2.3.3 Case/DP licensing in impersonals .............................................. 60 2.4 Chapter summary ....................................................................................64 3. Previous L2 research: An overview ....................................................65 3.1 L1A vs. L2A ..............................................................................................66 3.2 UG or not UG? .........................................................................................71 3.3 Syntactic impairment in L2A? ...............................................................75 3.3.1 The L2A of ImpPass ...................................................................... 79 3.4 Underspecification and morphological deficits ...................................82 3.4.1 Further evidence: Underspecification in L1A ........................... 87 20 3.5 L2 straddling the interfaces ....................................................................88 3.5.1 The Interface Hypothesis: an outline .......................................... 89 3.5.2 Reconciling facts and fitting them into theory .......................... 92 3.6 Chapter summary ....................................................................................94 4. Parametric variation .................................................................................97 4.1 On the EPP and expletives .....................................................................97 4.2 Pro-drop................................................................................................. 103 4.3 Impersonals, passives, and voice alternations cross-linguistically ................................................................................ 110 4.3.1 Russian impersonals ................................................................... 110 4.3.2 German impersonals .................................................................. 113 4.3.3 L1s in the ‘L2 GE’ study .............................................................. 116 4.3.3.1 Slavic impersonals ....................................................... 116 4.3.3.2 Romance impersonals ................................................. 119 4.3.3.3 Chinese .......................................................................... 121 4.3.4 Interim summary ........................................................................ 123 4.4 Parameters and clustering effects in the languages under investigation...

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