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


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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3. Previous L2 research: An overview


65 3. Previous L2 research: An overview For decades, a perennial topic in L2A research has been the apparent failure of most adult L2ers to achieve a native-like level of competence and performance. Contemporary generative theory and L2A research in particular rest largely upon what has come to be known as Principles and Parameters (P&P) approach, established to deal with particular problems related to the study of language and cross-linguistic variation. P&P has proven to be a prolific province for genera- tive grammarians, notwithstanding their area of investigation – be it language acquisition, diachronic morpho-syntax, comparative studies, or microvariation. According to Chomsky, the P&P framework “for the first time offered the hope of overcoming the tension between descriptive and explanatory adequacy. [It] led to an explosion of [e]nquiry into languages of the most varied typology, yielding new problems previously not envisioned, sometimes answers, and the reinvig- oration of neighbouring disciplines concerned with acquisition and processing […]” (Chomsky 2005: 8). Over the years, language acquisition research has been dependent on other- wise motivated, synchronic analyses, which have articulated their subject of en- quiry in terms of the hypotheses advanced in the field, e.g. within the frameworks of transformational, constructionist, relational, or head-driven phrase structure grammars. The body of theoretical literature has been growing throughout the years and yet no satisfactory conclusion has been reached, mostly because of the often conceived of as ancillary status of language acquisition data. This chap- ter outlines some of the most prominent L2 approaches...

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