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Second language acquisition of German V2: Stages of acquisition for English native speakers

Second language acquisition of German V2: Stages of acquisition for English native speakers

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An essay for the 2012 Undergraduate Awards (International Programme) Competition by Thea Knowles. Originally submitted for Linguistics undergraduate Thesis at McGill University, with lecturer Junko Shimoyama in the category of Languages & Linguistics
An essay for the 2012 Undergraduate Awards (International Programme) Competition by Thea Knowles. Originally submitted for Linguistics undergraduate Thesis at McGill University, with lecturer Junko Shimoyama in the category of Languages & Linguistics

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Published by: Undergraduate Awards on Aug 31, 2012
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10/27/2013

 
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Second language acquisition of German V2:
Stages of acquisition for English native speakers
Abstract:
This paper investigates the acquisition of German word order by adult native speakers of English. In particular it addresses the acquisition of the V2 effect in German, a processthat causes the verb to appear in second position even in the presence of non-subjecttopicalized elements. This construction constitutes a crucial difference between Germanand English. This study presents an analysis of the stages of acquisition through whichnative speakers of English must progress in order to acquire this property. This progression occurs via a resetting of parameter values in the L2. The results show thatsecond language learners accept target-like V2 structures before being able toconsistently reject non-target like V3 structures. This is due to the fact that L2 learnersrecognize early on that German verbs move to C, but do not recognize that 1) this isobligatory movement, hence they allow for verbs to optionally remain in I and 2) that IPadjunction is not possible in German, allowing for V3 errors in sentences containingtopicalized adverbial phrases. Low intermediate German learners are thus able torecognize grammatical sentences that differ from their native English, but are unable toreject ungrammatical German sentences that correspond to English structure in respect toV2.
 
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Table of Contents
1. Introduction
……………………………………………………………………………3
 2. Background
……………………………………………………………………………3
 2.1 German and English syntactic structures
………………………………….…3
 2.2 Previous studies on stages of L2 acquisition of German word order 
………..6
 2.2.1. Stages of L2 German acquisition: UG access and transfer debate ..62.2.2. L1 Transfer revisited
……………………………………………...7
 2.2.3. UG Access revisited
………………………………………………8
 3. Goals of this study
…………………………………………….....................................8
 4. Experiment
……………………………………………................................................9
 4.1. Participants
…………………………………………….................................9
 4.2. Task 
.……………………………………………...........................................9
 4.3. Stimuli
……………………………………………................
.......................105. Results
……………………………………………......................................................12
 6. Discussion
…………………………………………….................................................15
 7. Areas for improvement
…………………………………………….......................
......178. Conclusion
……………………………………………................................................18
 
9. Appendix ……………………………………………...……………………………...18
 10. References
…………………………………………….............
..................................32
List of Tables and Figures
Table 1: Group results: mean acceptances, 12Table 2: All stimuli, 19Table 3: Individual results: Number of incorrect responses within low intermediatespeakers, 30Table 4 Individual results: Number of incorrect responses within high intermediatespeakers, 31Table 5: Individual results: Number of incorrect responses within advanced speakers, 32Table 6: Individual results: Number of incorrect responses within native controls, 32Figure 1: Underlying German word order, 3Figure 2: German surface SVO, 4Figure 3: English SVO, 4Figure 4: German SIOV, 4Figure 5: English SIVO, 4Figure 6: German AdvVSO, 6Figure 7: English AdvSVO, 7Figure 8: German OVS, 8Figure 9: Group results: Accuracy, % within Stage 1, 13Figure 10: Group results: Accuracy, % within Stage 2, 13Figure 11: Group results: Accuracy, % within Stage 3, 14Figure 12: L2 learners optional CP in German, 16Figure 13: Cloze test, 18
 
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1. INTRODUCTION
 This paper investigates the acquisition of German word order by adult nativespeakers of English. In particular it addresses the acquisition of the V2 effect in German,a process that causes the verb to appear in second position even in the presence of non-subject topicalized elements. This construction constitutes a crucial difference betweenGerman and English. This study presents an analysis of the stages of acquisition throughwhich native speakers of English must progress in order to acquire this property. This progression occurs via a resetting of parameter values in the L2. The results show thatsecond language learners accept target-like V2 structures before being able toconsistently reject non-target like V3 structures. Low intermediate German learners arethus able to recognize grammatical sentences that differ from their native English, but areunable to reject ungrammatical German sentences that correspond to English structure inrespect to V2.
2. BACKGROUND
2.1. German and English syntactic structures
The underlying word order for German is C S I O V (DuPlessis et al., 1987; 64,Travis, 1984), as can be seen below in Figure 1.
Figure 1: Underlying German word order
Both German VP and IP are head-final; CP is head-initial. Finite verbs, generatedin V, undergo two movements in declarative clauses: from V to I and then again from I toC. German phrase structure differs from English, which is a head-initial language andwhich does not have verb movement except in the case of the auxiliaries
be
and
have
. For main verbs, inflectional features lower to V instead.In sentences such as those appearing in Figures (2) and (3), although the verb hasundergone movement to C in German and has remained in V in English, the surface wordorders are identical.
(2)
 
 Ich sehe einen Hund. (3) I see a dog 

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