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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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This book discusses the nature of particular stumbling blocks in developing and near-native second language grammars, and the indeterminacy observed in second language users’ linguistic representations. In order to find the sources of this variability, experimental data from 213 learners of German and 150 learners of Russian across four levels of acquisition has been collected and analysed. In particular, the object of enquiry is the second language acquisition of various “subjectless” and impersonal constructions in German and Russian, as well as argument licensing altogether. Whereas voice alternations and argument licensing are topics amply discussed in theoretical domains, their practical implementation within second language research has remained to a large extent a research lacuna. This piece of work intends to fill the gap.

The empirical findings presented in this book show that with respect to certain second language (L2) phenomena there is persistent optionality in interlanguage grammars; moreover, second language attainment is not native-like even with the most advanced second language users. Specifically, the morpho-syntax and syntax-discourse (and to a certain degree syntax-semantics) interfaces have been looked into. Thus, while certain phenomena at these interfaces display residual indeterminacy on the part of the L2 informants (e.g. impersonal passive constructions in L2 German), others have proven to converge on the target set by the native controls (e.g. the rejection of generic 3PRSN and non-identified 1PRSN pro in L2 Russian). The results show that second language optionality manifests itself in different domains and straddles across interfaces. Thus, the observation...

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