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Grammar Growth in Child Second Language German

Investigating DP Development in an Immersion Setting


Christiane Schöneberger

This empirical study investigates the acquisition and development of nominal morphology in L1-English-speaking children acquiring German as a second language in an immersion school context. The focus is on accuracy development in the emerging German article system. Embracing theoretical and applied aspects of second language acquisition research, the study brings together educational, cognitive and psycholinguistic dimensions of second language learning and teaching. Results have implications for curriculum design and quality development in language immersion and content and language integrated learning.
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3 Empirical evidence


3.1 Introduction

It is a prevalent claim in the research literature on the L2A of functional morphology that L1 transfer is operative in L2 development. Following proposals of feature-form connections, transfer should affect features and forms differently. Underlying features should be transferable, especially if the L1 and the L2 show large structural overlap. Surface inflection, on the other hand, may be problematic because it is not available via L1 transfer. Morphological variability in L2A thus is to be seen as a surface phenomenon rather than as an indicator of a deficient system. Finally, if variation is primarily a surface phenomenon, it should be susceptible to conditions that influence language production, such as task effects.

The learners under investigation in this thesis are neither adults nor can they be classified as bilingual first language acquirers because the process of L2A starts later and takes place under different conditions than L1A. Also, their L2 production shows that they are nowhere near the L2 end state. Recall from section 2.2 that the investigated learners cannot irrefutably be characterized as child second language learners. Their production might, in fact, qualify them as resembling adult learners in certain aspects. In terms of theory development in language acquisition, it is hypothesized, therefore, that the students’ language proficiency will point to a borderline classification between child and adult second language acquisition with some aspects resembling child L2A and others resembling adult L2A.

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