Title: Multicompetence and its Role in Second Language Acquisition Research Author: Casilde A. Isabelli Address: Dept.

of Foreign Languages & Literatures / MS 100 University of Nevada at Reno 1664 N. Virginia Reno, NV 89557 Contact Information: Office number: 775-784-6055x300 Home number: 775-322-3591 Fax number: 775-784-4197 (Attn: Cassie) Email address: isabelli@unr.edu Full name of Institution: Department of Foreign Languages & Literatures University of Nevada at Reno Abstract: Cook (1992) suggests that when testing the acquisition of subtle UG properties, the linguistic competence of the advanced L2 learner should be measured against the competence of an L1/L2 fluent bilingual and not that of an L2 monolingual because of differing cognitive processes between bilinguals and monolinguals. The goal of this empirical study is to compare the use of that-trace effects in Spanish by three groups: monolingual Spanish speakers; fluent bilingual English/Spanish speakers; and advanced English L2 learners of Spanish. Using reaction time grammaticality judgment tests and a follow-up interview on the subjects’ judgments, the results show differences between the bilingual and monolingual groups, suggesting that the L2 learners are performing like bilinguals. The implications of these results might suggest an additional approach to testing advanced L2 learners on acquisition of UG properties and help clarify the question of UG access during SLA.

Multicompetence and its Role in Second Language Acquisition Research Abstract Cook (1992) suggests that when testing the acquisition of subtle UG properties, the linguistic competence of the advanced L2 learner should be measured against the competence of an L1/L2 fluent bilingual and not that of an L2 monolingual because of differing cognitive processes between bilinguals and monolinguals. The goal of this empirical study is to compare the use of that-trace effects in Spanish by three groups: monolingual Spanish speakers; fluent bilingual English/Spanish speakers; and advanced English L2 learners of Spanish. Using reaction time grammaticality judgment tests and a follow-up interview on the subjects’ judgments, the results show differences between the bilingual and monolingual groups, suggesting that the L2 learners are performing like bilinguals. The implications of these results might suggest an additional approach to testing advanced L2 learners on acquisition of UG properties and help clarify the question of UG access during SLA.

1 Introduction In generative second language acquisition (SLA) research, it is the norm to measure acquisition by the approximation of the second language (L2) learner’s use of the target language to a monolingual native speaker’s use of that target language. However, this norm suggests a monolingual bias in research when comparing the L2 learner to a monolingual speaker, since a ‘multicompetent’ speaker (the L2 learner) is compared to a ‘mono-competent’ speaker. The question here is whether SLA research needs to take into account who they are using as a standard when determining acquisition. In addition


to comparing the L2 learner with a monolingual speaker, should we be comparing the L2 learner to a multicompetent L2/L1 fluent bilingual as well? Cook’s (1996) theory of multicompetence states that the internalized grammars of advanced L2 language learners differ from those of native speakers of the target language, despite the formers’ nearnative performance. This difference is hypothesized to be due to the compound state of a mind containing two grammars in contrast to a model in which the L1 and L2 competencies appear to be separate. Within the generative framework of SLA, the present study attempts to determine whether the linguistic competencies of multicompetent bilingual speakers (Spanish/English) differ from monolingual speakers of Spanish. In addition, this study will compare bilingual and monolingual speakers with the advanced Spanish L2 learner.

2 Universal Grammar in SLA Chomsky (1981) proposed that an innate Universal Grammar (UG) bridges the gap in L1 acquisition between available experience (e.g., underdetermined input, degenerate input, and lack of negative evidence) and attained competence (i.e., a complex adult grammar). This gap is often referred to as the learnability problem, or the logical problem of language acquisition, because of the “mismatch between primary linguistic input and the system actually attained” by language learners (White, 1989, p. 5) due to poverty of the stimulus. Poverty of the stimulus is characterized by the following: (1) a restricted sample of the infinite number of sentences a grammar can generate; (2) input that is a poor sample of the language to be learned; and (3) a lack of information about which sentences are not grammatical (which would allow the language learner to modify


hypotheses that prove to be incorrect). The learnability problem found in L1 acquisition can be extended to incorporate L2 acquisition due to the same circumstances the learner faces. In the L2 learning situation the L2 learner attempts to attain the target language, but unlike L1 learners, the majority of L2 learners fail to acquire full competence in the L2. However, despite poverty of the stimulus, some L2 learners are able to project beyond L2 input and become competent and proficient in the L2 just as L1 learners do because of access to UG (White, 1987, 1988, 1990). Over the past several decades, generative research has examined the central question of whether SLA is similar to L1 acquisition by determining the availability of UG to the L2 learner. One way of measuring availability of UG during SLA is to determine whether the L2 learner can “reset” a specified UG parameter from the L1 setting to the L2 setting. In essence, UG (under Chomsky’s 1981 Principles-and-Parameters approach) postulates a small number of universal principles that limit the types of grammars found in natural languages. An example of a principle is the extended projection principle (EPP), which states that all natural languages must contain a subject. Parameters are then the range of possible but limited variations of a UG principle. An example of a parameter is the Null Subject Parameter (NSP), which is a variation of the EPP. The NSP has two settings: [+NSP], found in Italian, Spanish, Greek or Arabic, which allows the subject position to be phonologically empty due to the recoverability of the subject pronoun in the rich inflection of the NSP language; and [-NSP], found in English and French, which does not allow the subject position to be phonologically empty as a result of weak inflection. Furthermore, a parameter setting will underlie a range of surface


syntactic properties in a particular language, thereby creating a “cluster,” or group of properties that are related to that parameter. Chomsky’s Minimalist Program (1995) overlaps considerably with his Principles-and-Parameters approach but differs in that all language variation is seen as morpho-lexical, and all parametric variation is thought to arise from the lexicon. As mentioned previously, a standard method of testing UG availability in SLA is to contrast L1 and L2 principles with parameter settings of UG. Because UG is designed to put constraints on a language system and to inform one as to what is not possible, research on principles and parameters in SLA therefore needs to investigate aspects of UG not exemplified in the L1. The L2 learner’s ability to “reset” the parameter setting that is not operative in their L1 is evidence that UG is available. Parameter resetting means that the L2 learner will not lose the L1 parameter setting, but rather will assume the L1 setting initially and then “reset” it for the L2 while still maintaining the setting for the L1 (White, 1989, p. 80). For the purposes of the present study, three clustering properties (after Chomsky, 1981; Burzio, 1986; and Rizzi, 1982) of the [+NSP] will now be reviewed.

2.1 The Null Subject Parameter The first clustered property of [+NSP] allows null subjects, pro, in tensed clauses: (1) a. b. c. d. [pro] Salieron a las ocho. * Left at eight. They left at eight. [pro] Está lloviendo.


e. f. g.

* Is raining. It is raining. * Lo está lloviendo.

All empty categories must be properly governed, as stated by the empty category principle (ECP). In the Spanish sentences (1a, d), pro is properly governed by the inflection of the verb, because in null subject languages inflection licenses pro. But in English, as seen in (1b, e), lexical subjects are required due to their inability to recover from the weak inflection. In (1d), the absence of the subject pronoun of weather verbs in Spanish is obligatory, whereas English always requires pleonastic pronouns it and there, as seen in (1f). Expletive pleonastic it, which is not an argument and to which no theta roles are assigned, acts as a ‘dummy’ pronoun; it is simply a placeholder for the unfilled subject position. The second property of the [+NSP] is free verb-subject (V/S) inversion, illustrated below: (2) a. b. c. d. [proi] Han llegado mis padresi. * Have arrived my parents. My parents have arrived. Therei have arrived my parentsi.

Verb-subject inversion in Spanish functions such that co-indexing exists, as in (2a), between a non-argument subject, pro, and a post-verb indefinite subject, mis padres. Sentence (2a) is similar to the English sentence (2d), where if the subject position is not occupied by a referential expression, then it must be filled with the expletive existential there, also co-indexed with a post-verbal argument, my parents. But, unlike in English,


the non-argument co-indexed subject in the Spanish (2a) need not be filled with a pronoun because null subject languages allow for the position to be null. The third property of the [+NSP] is the apparent that-trace filter violations, illustrated in the following: (3) a. b. c. d. *Whoi does the FBI think [CP ti that [IP ti killed the president]]? Whoi does the FBI think [CP ti [IP ti killed the president]]?

¿Quiéni cree el FBI [CP ti que [IP proi mató tI al presidente]]? *¿Quiéni cree el FBI [CP ti [IP proi mató ti al presidente]]?

The English sentence (3a) is ungrammatical due to the violation of ECP. Proper government of the wh-trace, t—left in subject position—is blocked because of the presence of the complementizer that in COMP. But once the complementizer that is deleted in (3b) the trace in CP properly governs the original one. In the Spanish (3c), pro is extracted from post-verbal position, allowing the trace to be properly governed by the lexical verb matar.

3 What is ‘multicompetence’? The term ‘competence,’ as described by Chomsky (1965), denotes the mental representation of linguistic rules that constitute a person’s internal grammar and includes implicit knowledge of what constitutes grammatical sentences. Cook (1991) builds from the term ‘competence’ to derive the term ‘multicompetence’—“the compound state of a mind with two grammars” (p. 112)—, which is different from the state of mind with one grammar, monocompetence. In 1992, Cook further states that the start of multicompetence within the UG model would be when the L2 learner’s linguistic


competence starts to differentiate between the L1 and L2 parameter settings (1992, p. 581). The term multicompetence stems from Cook’s research in language acquisition, specifically the poverty-of-the stimulus argument (1991), in which he argued that it “is not so much how the child learns a grammar with a setting for each parameter as how the child learns one or more grammars with one or more settings for each parameter— multicompetence” (1992, p. 558). One of the questions Cook addresses with respect to multicompetence is whether bilinguals’ and/or L2 learners’ language systems are independent of each other, or not in the same “mind.” In his review of psycholinguistic research with multilingual people, he provides evidence that lexicon is, in fact, a single system (Beauvillain & Grainger, 1987; Caramazza & Brones, 1979); that L1 competence is not cut off during L2 processing (Altenberg & Cairns, 1983; Blair & Harris, 1981); and that the multilingual’s brain appears to store both languages in the same areas (Paradis, 1989). A second question Cook (1992) addresses is how multicompetence differs from monocompetence in terms of a “state of mind.” He approaches this question in four ways. First, to examine the hypothesis that L2 users differ from monolinguals in knowledge of the L1, he reviews the phonological work of Flege (1987) (L2 French, L1 English), Nathan (1987) (L2 Spanish/English), and Obler (1982) (Hebrew/English bilinguals) showing that L2 learners’ linguistic competence might have an effect on that speakers’ L1 competence because L1/L2 bilingual adults produce and perceive differently than L1 and L2 monolinguals on the same tasks. Cook also reviews the studies of CaskeySirmons and Hickson (1977) (L1 Korean, L2 English) and Magiste (1979) (L1 German,


L2 Swedish), which respectively demonstrate that bilinguals’ L1 vocabulary is affected by their second language, and that bilinguals’ rate on production and comprehension tasks is much slower than that of monolinguals. Cook concludes that “multicompetence in some respects contains a different state of L1 knowledge” (p. 561). A second way in which Cook (1992) addresses the question of whether multicompetence is a different state of mind than monocompetence is by showing that people who know an L2 have a different metalinguistic awareness from people who know only an L1. A brief review of the bilingual studies of Ianco-Worrall (1972) (Afrikaans/English children), Ben-Zeev (1977) (Hebrew/Spanish), Galambos and Hakuta (1988) provide evidence that bilinguals have an enhanced metalinguistic awareness over monolinguals. Cook concludes that L2 users are more consciously aware of language in comparison to monolinguals. A third way in which Cook (1992) addresses the question of difference is by outlining the differences in the cognitive processes of multicompetent and monocompetent individuals. In a review of the limited extant research in this area, Cook highlights work by Landry (1974), who found that L2 learners, after being in a five year FLES program, scored higher on standard tests of divergent thinking (which value flexibility, originality, and fluency) than monolinguals. Lambert, Tucker, and d’Anglejan (1973) provide evidence to suggest the existence of higher creativity of “unusual uses” in children who were enrolled in immersion schools as compared to monolingual children. Peal and Lambert (1962) found that on verbal and nonverbal IQ tests, bilingual children outperformed monolingual children. Cook suggests that these results found among advanced L2 learners are indicative of their different cognitive processes.


Finally, Cook (1992) shows that advanced L2 users differ from monolinguals in their knowledge of the L2. He examines work by Coppieters (1987), who administered French grammaticality judgment tests to L1 and near-native L2 French bilinguals (individuals who started learning French as adults but were accepted by native French speakers as being native). Her results showed that the near-natives’ grammaticality judgment tests scores were significantly different from the L2 monolinguals’ scores, especially on basic grammatical contrasts such as the two past tenses, the third person pronouns, and the placement of adjectives before or after a noun. The results thus suggest the independence of language use versus linguistic competence. The studies by Balcom (1995) and (1998), found that English/French bilinguals performed significantly differently than native English speakers with little exposure to French on their acceptance of inappropriate passive morphology. Her results support Cook’s hypothesis in that on the production tasks, the advanced English learners’ performance was indistinguishable from the monolingual English speakers, but the grammaticality judgment tests showed that the learners accept significantly more ungrammatical passives with unaccusative verbs and with other verbs having a theme in subject position. Although empirical research in this area is lacking, Cook believes that “the grammar of the L2 in a multicompetent speaker is not the same as the apparently equivalent grammar in a monolingual” (p. 562). He argues that if people who speak two languages are competently different than monolinguals, then this contrast should be introduced into the field of SLA research. Presently there is a monolingual bias in research; L2 learner grammaticality judgment test scores are often compared to those of L2 monocompetents,


rather than to those of multicompetent L2/L1 fluent bilinguals. In the next section, a review of SLA research on the Null Subject Parameter using monolingual L2 as the control group will be re-analyzed within Cook’s multicompetence framework.

3.1 Re-examining studies on the resetting of the Null Subject Parameter The studies of Liceras (1989), Phinney (1987), White (1985, 1986), Muñoz (1997), and Isabelli (2004) have addressed the question of whether L2 adult learners of Spanish reset the NSP from the [-] value in English, to the [+] value in Spanish, or vice versa.1 These studies have produced conflicting evidence as to whether or not the NSP was reset; however, it is proposed that the results can be clarified with reference to Cook’s (1996) multicompetence theory. Liceras (1989) investigates, cross-linguistically, the resetting of the NSP by 30 English and 32 French speakers enrolled in four consecutive Spanish level university courses in Canada. Five Spanish speakers acted as controls. Liceras administered to all the subjects a grammaticality judgment test with 17 items that tested the three properties of the NSP. Her results showed that the first property of the [+NSP], overt null subjects, was acquired, but that the second and third properties were not. She concludes that these last two properties might not form part of the [+NSP]. A closer examination of the methodology of this study, however, reveals several important limitations. First, the five control subjects against whom the L2 learner subjects were compared were Spanish speaking graduate students at a Canadian university. Were these fluent English/Spanish bilinguals? French/Spanish bilinguals? Monolingual Spanish speakers? Liceras does not provide a detailed description of the controls’


language backgrounds, which would allow for a clearer understanding of the results obtained. Liceras’s results also show that for both the French and English subjects, the percentage of correct acceptances of grammaticality judgment items on V/S inversion and that-trace increased with the level of the Spanish course, suggesting that the Spanish L2 learners entertained the two parameter settings of the NSP. But the more advanced Spanish learners showed signs of multicompetence when their linguistic competence started to differentiate between the L1 and L2 parameter settings (when they correctly accepted 60% or more of the items). Would Liceras’ conclusions be different if the advanced learners were compared to multicompetent speakers? Phinney (1987) collected production data in the form of free compositions by Puerto Rican university students of English and American university students learning Spanish. Phinney’s results provide no conclusive evidence in either direction of the NSP being reset, but suggest that it is not difficult for L2 learners to reset the parameter. These inconclusive results might be due to a combination of methodological errors. First, there was no control over the topics subjects wrote about, and therefore they could not be specifically directed to produce the three properties of the NSP. In addition, the study assumes that free production is representative of linguistic competence, whereas there is a great deal of research to discount this notion. Finally, and most importantly, there was no control group with which to compare and contrast results. Differences between multicompetence and monocompetence would have likely been observed had there been a monolingual Spanish and English control group, as well as a bilingual Spanish/English control group.


White’s (1985, 1986) subjects consisted of Spanish speaking adults learning English in the classroom setting, and a control group consisting of native French speakers learning English. The subjects were administered a grammaticality judgment test that tested the three properties of the NSP, and a question-formation task that focused on the that-trace property. Results showed that Spanish speakers had a higher error rate when judging the grammaticality of English sentences with missing subjects and that-trace violations than did the French speakers learning English. The results suggest that initially the L2 learner opts for the L1 setting of the pro-drop parameter, but as proficiency increases they switch to the L2 setting, at least in regard to the first property. White is uncertain if the V/S inversion and that-trace effects are properties of the NSP. Muñoz (1997) administered a grammaticality judgment test testing the three properties of the [+NSP] to six levels of 124 university Spaniards learning English as an L2. Her control group consisted of White’s (1986) control subjects, French learners of English. Muñoz , like White, found that only the first property was acquired, and suggests that V/S inversion and that-trace do not pertain to the NSP. Neither White (1985, 1986) nor Muñoz (1997) used monolinguals of the target language or bilinguals of the L1 and L2 to compare the subjects against. A better analysis of parameter resetting would have been to compare the multicompetent and mono-competent speakers to determine, first, whether they hold different competencies, and second, whether there is a cognitive difference between the two. Such a comparison would have likely resulted in different conclusions about the NSP in SLA. Isabelli (2004) measured Spanish syntactic development and acquisition of three syntactic properties proposed to be related to the NSP in L2 learners of Spanish in a


study-abroad context. Judgment tests and oral narrative measures were administered to 29 advanced learners before and after a one-year study-abroad stay in Barcelona. Statistical results showed significant improvement on all properties. The results also showed that the participants performed as native-speakers on subject pronoun omission and subjectverb inversion but did not perform as native-speakers on the third property (that-trace effect), suggesting that the property was not acquired and thus the parameter was not reset. Although the Minimalist program is constructionist2 (that is, properties within a parameter are not acquired all at once but gradually), the lack of acquisition of the last property even after nine months of immersion is surprising. Do the learners need more exposure to the input to acquire this last abstract property? Or will the learner ever match the competence of the monolingual speaker, to whom the learner was compared in this study? In summary, Liceras (1989), White (1985, 1986), and Muñoz (1997) found that only one property of the NSP was acquired and thus conclude that the other two properties are not part of the NSP, or that the NSP is not reset. Isabelli’s (2004) data suggest that only two of the properties were acquired and that the failure to acquire the that-trace property did not allow the NSP to be reset. Phinney’s (1987) results neither support nor contradict parameter resetting. It is proposed that the conflicting evidence provided by these studies can be understood as a result of monolingual bias in the studies’ methodological procedures. The failure of these studies to account for acquisition of the third property may be due to their failure to compare L2 learners with multicompetent L2/L1 fluent bilinguals. According to Cook (1996), when testing the acquisition of subtle UG properties (such as the NSP), the linguistic competence of the advanced L2 learner should


be measured against the linguistic competence of an L1/L2 fluent bilingual and not that of an L2 monolingual because of differing cognitive processes between bilinguals and monolinguals. The present study is an attempt to re-examine the issue of parameter resetting in L2 learners through the lens of Cook’s multicompetence theory. In the present study, multicompetence will be examined by studying the acquisition of the third property of the NSP, that-trace effects, by the following speakers: advanced L2 Spanish learners, monolingual Spanish speakers, and bilingual Spanish/English Heritage speakers. The third property of the [+NSP] was chosen as a focus since, as discussed with reference to the extant research, it has been shown to be the property most difficult to acquire (if at all).

4 The Study The purpose of the present study is twofold: 1) to determine whether mono-competent L1 and multicompetent L1/L2 Heritage Spanish speakers (HSS) have the same linguistic competence; and 2) to determine whether the advanced Spanish L2 learner’s linguistic competence is more similar to the Spanish mono-competent L1 speaker or to the multicompetent Spanish/English bilingual L1/L2 speaker. Specifically, the study examines the treatment of Spanish that-trace effects by three groups: monolingual Spanish speakers; fluent bilingual English/Spanish Heritage speakers; and advanced L2 learners of Spanish. The questions addressed are whether HSS treat that-trace items in the same manner as monolingual Spanish speakers, and whether advanced L2 learners of Spanish treat that-trace items in the same manner as Heritage Spanish speakers. The research questions are as follows: Is there a significant difference on grammaticality


judgment test scores on the that-trace effect of the [+NSP] between: (a) monocompetent monolingual Spanish speakers and multicompetent HSS?; (b) advanced L2 Spanish learners and monolingual Spanish speakers?; and (c) advanced L2 Spanish learners and the multicompetent HSS?

4.1 Participants In order to investigate the use of the that-trace filter in Spanish, three groups of participants were tested. Group 1 consisted of 10 advanced L2 learners of Spanish whose first language is English and who were majors and/or graduate students studying Spanish. These were adult learners who started learning the L2 after puberty. Group 2 consisted of 10 HSS. These HSS are Latino adults who were born in the United States to at least one parent born in a Spanish-speaking country. As children, these HSS were exposed to two languages from birth—the family language (Spanish) and the community language (English)—and who may be more dominant in the community language. Group 3 consisted of five monolingual Spanish speakers from Spain and Mexico, although they had some speaking skills in English. Groups 2 and 3 served as the control groups.

4.2 Materials Since UG is designed to put constraints on a system and to “tip off” the language learner as to what is not grammatical, the most efficient method of determining whether the target language parameter setting was being reset was to administer a grammaticality judgment test (GJT). The three subject groups were tested on their knowledge of thattrace effects in Spanish using a computerized GJT.


4.3 The test The GJT tested for the linguistic competence of the that-trace property of the [+NSP]. The GJT used high frequency Spanish lexicon. Since the hypothesis being tested is whether the advanced L2 learners’ linguistic competence of that-trace use resembles that of a monolingual L1 Spanish speaker or of an L1/L2 bilingual speaker, the target items involved eight grammatical Spanish sentences (see Table 1), which, in comparable English, would violate the [-NSP] and be ungrammatical.

Table 1 That-trace effects grammatical target sentences 1. ¿Quién cree la policía que mató al joyero? * ‘Who does the police believe that killed the jeweler?’ 2. ¿Quién piensan los padres que raptó a su hija? * ‘Who do the parents think that kidnapped their daughter?’ 3. ¿Quién crees tú que habla japonés aquí? * ‘Who do you believe that speaks Japanese here?’ 4. ¿Quién cree el FBI que asesinó al presidente? * ‘Who does the FBI think that assassinated the president?’ 5. ¿Qué creen Uds. que hizo el ruido? * ‘What do they believe that made the noise?’ 6. ¿Qué pensamos nosotros que causó el derrumbe? * ‘What do we think that caused the cave-in?’ 7. ¿Qué piensan Uds. que rompió en el coche?


* ‘What do you (pl) think that broke the car?’ 8. ¿Qué crees tú que causó la confusión? * ‘What do you think that caused the confusion?’

The next set of items was comprised of eight ungrammatical Spanish sentences that violated the [+NSP] (see Table 2), and that, in comparable grammatical English sentences, would not violate the [-NSP] setting.

Table 2 That-trace effects: ungrammatical target sentences 1. *¿Quién pensamos nosotros robó el dinero? ‘Who do we think stole the money?’ 2. *¿Quién creen Uds. pegó al hombre? ‘Who do you (pl.) believe hit the man?’ 3. *¿Quién piensan Uds. regaló las flores a Tina? ‘Who do you (pl.) think gave the flowers to Tina?’ 4. *¿Quién crees tú va a ganar mañana? ‘Who do you believe will win tomorrow?’ 5. *¿Qué pensamos nosotros hizo el ruido? ‘What do we think made the noise?’ 6. *¿Qué creen Uds. causó el fuego? ‘What do you (pl.) believe caused the fire?’ 7. *¿Qué crees tú causó el accidente? ‘What do you believe caused the accident?’


8. *¿Qué piensan Uds. rompió en el otro cuarto? ‘What do you (pl.) think broke in the other room?’

Also included in the GJT were 16 distractor items (Appendix A) that consisted of eight grammatical simple structures and eight ungrammatical structures with a scrambled word order. The GJT was thus composed of a total of 32 items (target and distractor), 16 grammatical and 16 ungrammatical.

4.4 Data Collection Procedure & Scoring The data was collected one participant at a time on the researcher’s office computer. The test was administered via a program that presented each sentence individually on the screen. The participant had eight seconds to read and judge whether the Spanish sentence was ‘possible’ or ‘impossible’ by hitting the corresponding letter on the keyboard. Before starting the test, the participants took a warm-up test with five practice sentences. The test items were administered in a randomized order. After completion of the test, each participant completed a background questionnaire, during which time the researcher printed out the sentences judged as ‘impossible.’ After completing the questionnaire, the participant was given the sentences marked ‘impossible’ and was then instructed to make the ‘impossible’ sentences ‘possible.’ Each item of the GJT was given a score of “1” if the participant correctly judged the that-trace present sentences as ‘possible’ and correctly judged the missing that-trace sentences as ‘impossible.’ The follow-up test allowing the participants to make the ‘impossible’ sentences ‘possible’ ensured that the sentences judged as ‘impossible’ was


due to the missing that-trace. If they corrected the sentence by inserting the complementizer ‘que,’ then they received one point. The participant received a score of “0” if they incorrectly judged the that-trace present sentences as ‘impossible’ and incorrectly judged the missing that-trace sentences as ‘possible.’ If on the follow-up test the participant corrected the ‘impossible’ sentence by not inserting the complementizer ‘que,’ then they received 0 points. The GJT target items were scored and the total scores were then tallied for each participant. A score of “8” was the highest possible.

5 Results The Heritage Spanish speakers’ GJT scores and the monolingual speakers’ test scores are summarized in Table 3. On grammatical test items with the that-trace present, the monolingual Spanish speakers performed better (100%) than the Heritage Spanish speakers (81.3%) and the advanced L2 learners (63.8%). On the ungrammatical test items with the that-trace absent, the monolingual Spanish speakers again performed better (92.5%) than the Heritage Spanish speakers (71.2%) and the advanced L2 learners (45%). In addition, the data suggest that the advanced L2 learners know aspects of Spanish language (that-trace effects) that they could not have learned from the input or through formal instruction; this knowledge is indicated by the fact that they scored more than “0” on sentences that are grammatical in Spanish but are ungrammatical in English.

Table 3 Grammaticality Judgment Test Mean Scores




Mean % (Standard Deviation) Monolingual Heritage (n = 5) (n = 10) Advanced (n = 10)

That-trace present That-trace absent

0-8 0-8

100% (.00) 92.5% (.89)

81.3% (2.42) 63.8% (3.31) 71.2% (2.26) 45% (3.27)

Table 4 presents the independent-samples t-tests comparing the monolingual Spanish speakers’ and the Spanish Heritage speakers’ scores to the advanced L2 learners. For the target sentences with the that-trace present and absent, the data yielded a non-significant difference in mean scores between the Monolingual speakers and the Spanish Heritage speakers (p = .095, df = 13 and p=.213, df=13 respectively) at the p < .05 level. However, the data yielded a significant difference in mean scores between the Monolingual speakers and the advanced L2 learners (p = .004, df = 13 and p = .002, df = 13 respectively) at the p < .05 level. When comparing the Spanish Heritage speakers’ scores to the advanced L2 learner group, the data yielded a non-significant difference in mean scores (p = .146, df = 18 and p= .053, df = 18 respectively) at the p < .05 level.

Table 4 Summary Table of Independent-Samples T Test Pair item t df p

Monolingual Spanish






Heritage Speaker

that-trace absent




Monolingual Spanish Advanced L2 learner

that-trace that-trace absent

1.920 2.506

13 13

.004** .002**

Heritage Speaker Advanced L2 learner

that-trace that-trace absent

1.079 1.669

18 18

.146 .053

** p < .05 (denotes a significant difference in mean scores)

6 Discussion and conclusions The results indicate that, in answer to the first research question, there is not a significant difference on grammaticality judgment test scores on the that-trace effect of the [+NSP] between monocompetent monolingual Spanish speakers and multicompetent Heritage Spanish speakers. Similarly, no significant difference in GJT scores was found between advanced L2 Spanish learners and multicompetent HSS on the that-trace effect of the [+NSP] (the third research question). However, a significance difference was found between mono-competent Spanish speakers and multicompetent advanced L2 learners on the that-trace effect of the [+NSP] (the second research question). Taken together, these data suggest that the advanced L2 learners are performing more like the Heritage Spanish speaking group and provide support for Cook’s ‘multicompetence’ hypothesis. This study also confirms Balcom’s (1995) and (1998) findings that English/French bilinguals performed significantly differently than native English speakers with little exposure to French on their acceptance of inappropriate passive morphology. The


present study also supports Coppetiers’s (1987) findings that near-native speakers diverge from native speakers in formal features and functional aspects of grammar. However, the far-from-perfect performance on the GJT by the Heritage speakers (81% and 71%, respectively, with a large standard deviation) merits discussion of a topic currently being investigated in the bilingual research: incomplete acquisition of Spanish by the Heritage speakers. Research has shown (Silva Corvalán, 2003; Vihman & McLaughlin, 1982) that early bilingual second and third generation immigrants for whom the non-heritage, community language was stronger will have a weaker heritage language since it was not acquired completely or because some aspects were lost. In addition, recent generative bilingual research has shown that incomplete acquisition resembles a particular stage of second language acquisition (Montrul, 2005a,b). The results from these bilingual studies suggest that the issue of multicompetence needs to be further investigated with Heritage speakers to determine whether incomplete acquisition or multicompetence is in effect and to determine how to differentiate between them during SLA research. The implications of these results might suggest an additional approach to testing advanced L2 learners on acquisition of UG properties and help clarify the question of UG access during SLA.


Hilles’s 1986 study will not be considered here since she assumes a different version of

the clustered NSP properties.

Using the Minimalist Program for a theory of SLA of syntactic properties, a

constructionist approach is assumed. As Herschensohn (2000) eloquently summarizes,


“the ‘incompleteness’ of L2 acquisition follows from the fact that parameters are not ‘reset’ but rather are gradually acquired as the second-language learner’s lexical store increases” (p. 117). However, one would assume that through this constructionist approach the L2 learner will eventually arrive at the final state where the parameter is reset (i.e., the acquisition of all the properties of the parameter, including the that-trace property).


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Appendix A Grammaticality Judgment Test Distractor Sentences. 1. *¿Quién robó pensamos que nosotros el dinero? * ‘Who robed do we think that we the money?’ 2. *¿Quién dicen el pegó hombre Uds.? * ‘Who they say the hit man they?’ 3. *¿Quién flores regaló Uds. piensan? * ‘Who flowers gave you (plural) think?’ 4. *¿Quién Uds. su coche piensan su coche robó? * ‘Who you (plural) his car think his car robbed?’ 5. *¿Qué tú que causó crees la confusión? * ‘What you that caused you believe the confusion?’ 6. *¿Qué Uds. el fuego que causó creen? * ‘What you (plural) the fire that caused you (plural) believe?’ 7. *¿Qué el ruido pensamos hizo nosotros que? * ‘What the noise we think made we that?’ 8. *¿Qué causó que piensan en el coche Ud.? * ‘What caused that you (plural) think in the car you (formal)?’ 9. ¿Qué comiste tú ayer en el restaurante? ‘What did you eat yesterday in the restaurant?’ 10. ¿Qué compró tu madre en el supermercado? ‘What did your mother buy at the supermarket?’ 11. ¿Qué leyeron los profesores en clase?


‘What did your professors read in class?’ 12. ¿Qué estudió el estudiante esta mañana? ‘What did the student study this morning?’ 13. ¿Qué hicieron Uds. durante el verano? ‘What did you (plural) do during the summer?’ 14. ¿Quién habló con tu amigo por la noche? ‘Who spoke with your friend last night?’ 15. ¿Quién gritó a los niños pequeños ayer? ‘Who yelled at the little children yesterday?’ 16. ¿Quién quiere ir conmigo a la fiesta? ‘Who wants to go with me to the party?’ 17. ¿Quién quiere ver una película romántica? ‘Who wants to see a romantic movie?’ 18. ¿Quién escribió la carta al presidente? ‘Who wrote the letter to the president?’


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