The L2 acquisition of Spanish focus: a case of incomplete and divergent grammars.
Baauw, Sergio, van Kampen, Jacqueline and Pinto, Manuela (eds.)
The Acquisition of Romance Languages: Selected papers from The Romance Turn II 2006.
Utrecht, The Netherlands,
(LOT Occasional Series 8).
It is commonly assumed that non-native optionality, i.e. where two competing grammars exist in the mental representation of L2 learners, is a common feature of developing grammars even at advanced proficiency levels (White 1991, 1992, Eubank 1994, Sorace, 1993, 1999, 2000, Prévost and White 2000). In this study we focus on the source of such optionality arguing that certain errors found in advanced non-native grammars cannot be sufficiently accounted for as simple transfers from the learner’s L1. Our study builds upon the observation that real optionality in native grammars is in fact difficult to verify (Papp 2000, Parodi and Tsimpli 2005) and that whereas two possible variations of the structure may coexist in the target grammar, the contexts in which the forms are used are not easily identified. Consequently, the linguistic evidence from which L2 learners create grammatical assumptions can be quite ambiguous. Given such obvious lack of robustness in the input, the learnability task is made considerably more difficult and presumably learners will face longer periods of grammatical indeterminacy even at advanced levels of proficiency. Even though it is commonly assumed that optional constructions surface in both incomplete and divergent L2 near-native grammars, the source of such optionality remains unclear, and it is generally assumed that learners may revert to their native language when they find difficulty in inducing the rules of the target grammar (Sorace 1993, Papp 2000). In this respect the acquisition of focus in Spanish is a good test ground because the native input is ambiguous, there is more than one way of marking focus (Zubizarreta 1998, Domínguez 2004), and also because advanced learners encounter problems acquiring the pragmatic conditions that constrain word order alterations in focused sentences (Ocampo 1990, Hertel 2003, De Miguel 1993, Lozano 2006).
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