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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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4. Parametric variation


97 4. Parametric variation The aim of the present chapter is to check the cross-linguistic ramifications of the proposal advanced in Chapter 2, namely that CauseP and VoiceP are sepa- rate projections. Thus, it has been argued that causative morphology (merged in v/Cause) abstractly introduces the concept of (external) causation, whereas VoiceP is responsible for introducing external arguments. Further, a parame- terisation of arguments and voice alternations in both second languages (Ger- man and Russian) is attempted, as well as a reference to the languages of which the majority of my ‘L2 GE’ informants have been native speakers42 is made (viz. South Slavic (Bulgarian), n=62; East and West Slavic (Czech, Polish, Russian, Slo- vak, Ukrainian), n=50; Romance (Italian, Portuguese, Spanish), n=33; and Chi- nese, n=20). After presenting the relevant typological facts, these languages are parameterised with respect to their clustering properties as to account for the nature of (potential) L1 transfer phenomena in L2A. As already argued in the previous chapters, the lack or presence of EA is the derivative effect of a particular syntactic configuration in v/Voice, which may or may not hinge on [+ag]. At this juncture, it is fitting to spend a few words on one of the most debatable principles within the generative framework – the Extended Projection Principle (EPP), and on the not less controversial pro-drop parameter. 4.1 On the EPP and expletives Initially proposed as an overt condition that every clause have an (overt) sub- ject (Chomsky 1981), the notion of...

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