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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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6. Discussion: On the complexities of L2 syntax


171 6. Discussion: On the complexities of L2 syntax The results presented in the previous chapter directly bear on both theoretical issues and developmental L2 acquisition questions. In the following, I argue that the indeterminacy of interlanguage grammars arises out of both representational deficits in the semantico-morphological component as well as the integration of knowledge at the interfaces, syntax-morphology and syntax-discourse in par- ticular. As such, I will develop the argument advanced in the missing surface ac- count (MSIH) (cf. Lardiere 2000; Prévost & White 2000a, b) and augment it with ‘interface-based’ considerations towards L2A. As I will show, the data reported in Chapter 5 do not fully conform to the hypotheses advanced in the MSIH, more precisely with the claim that L2 shortcomings are confined to performance only. There is still motivation to argue for representational deficits in L2A, ones bound to the syntax-morphology, syntax-semantics and syntax-discourse inter- faces alike. As such, interface-based approaches are better (in fact, possibly best) candidates to explain the optionality in interlanguage grammars across levels. Nevertheless, the vulnerability observed at all interfaces provides counterevi- dence against the strong claim of the Interface Hypothesis (Sorace 2005, 2011), according to which L2 grammar indeterminacy stems from difficulties in inte- grating syntactic knowledge at the syntax-discourse interface. 6.1 The nature of L2 knowledge Arguably, there are plenty of L2 approaches on the wide ‘L2 research market’. On a global scale, two of them provide a good example of a polarity pair – the emergentism and the modular approach....

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