The L2 acquisition of dative experiencer subjects

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This longitudinal experimental study is concerned with the L2 acquisition of argument structure and its relationship with Case Theory. French (n = 17) and English (n = 19) intermediate learners of Spanish as a Second Language were tested three times over a period of eight months on their knowledge of dative experiencers. Eighteen Spanish native speakers acted as a control group. Dative experiencers in Spanish are common with a subset of psych verbs and unaccusative predicates. These experiencers look like indirect objects on the surface, and indeed can appear in the position of indirect objects. Most of the time, however, they appear in canonical subject position and behave like subjects for some modules of the grammar, such as Control PRO in adjunct clauses. It was hypothesized that if a thematic hierarchy is operative in SLA,both English and French learners would have no difficulty interpreting experiencers as subjects, but that English learners would experience greater difficulty with dative case because there is no dative case in English.An Interpretation Task and a Preference Task were designed to test these hypotheses. Results indicate that,whereas both groups of subjects have access to the thematic hierarchy (a UG component),L1 influence plays an important role with case assignment and checking.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)27-61
Number of pages35
JournalSecond Language Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1998
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Linguistics and Language

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