Structural Minimality, CP and the initial state in second language acquisition

Rakesh M. Bhatt, Barbara Hancin Bhatt

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This article considers the current debate on the initial state of second language acquisition (L2) and presents critical empirical evidence from Hindi learners of English as an L2 that supports the claim that the CP (complementizer phase) is initially absent from the grammar of L2 learners. Contrary to the predictions of Full Transfer (Schwartz and Sprouse, 1994; 1996), the data we present suggest that L2 learners start out without a CP and then graduate to a stage where overt expressions of CP (complementizer phase) are in fact manifest. Although the lack of evidence of CP appears to support the Minimal Trees/Partial Transfer (MT/PT) hypothesis (Vainikka and Young-Scholten, 1996a; 1996b), we show that the MT/PT hypothesis also fails to honour all the empirical facts.To account for the patterns in our data, we propose Structural Minimality - that clausal projections are IPs - as a hypothesis on the initial state of L2 acquisition. We argue that the Structural Minimality hypothesis accounts for the entire array CP-acquisition facts in Hindi-speaking learners of English as an L2.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)348-392
Number of pages45
JournalSecond Language Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2002

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Linguistics and Language


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