General programme, activity sheet

Thursday 7 September, 2017 12:00 to 12:30

Oral presentation

A bidirectional study on complex wh-movement in heritage speakers and L2 learners: Transfer versus derivational complexity

Speaker: Michael Putnam, Penn State University

Authors: Nora Vosburg, Holger Hopp, Michael Putnam

Full abstract: In a comparative study of heritage L1 and late L2 acquisition, we investigate the production and comprehension of filler-gap dependencies in Plautdietsch (Mennonite Low German) and English by Plautdietsch-English bilinguals. Previous research shows that complex (i.e. cross-clausal) wh-dependencies pose more difficulty to child L1 and adult L2 learners than monoclausal dependencies (Jakubowicz and Strik 2008, Schulz 2011, Slavkov 2014). To avoid complex dependencies, learners often license medial constructions where the wh-item surfaces once at the left periphery of the embedded CP and a second time at the left periphery of the matrix clause, as illustrated by (1) and (2). (1) What do you think where she put the book? (medial scope-marking) (2) Where do you think where she put the book? (copy) Medial-wh is ungrammatical in English, though possible in (Low) German. In this paper, we investigate whether medial-wh in heritage and L2 speakers is due to cross-linguistic transfer or grammar-internal complexity reduction according to the Derivational Complexity Hypothesis (DCH; Jakubowicz, 2005). Our study presents a comparison of fluent L1 speakers of Plautdietsch, a Germanic variety spoken by Mennonites around the world. We compare two groups within the same population, i.e. six speakers with Plautdietsch as L1 who learnt English late, and six speakers who have Plautdietsch as a heritage language and acquired English early. All speakers performed a production task in form of an interactive game between the researcher and the participant. We thereby elicited a combined total of 833 long-distance, embedded, and matrix questions in Plautdietsch and English. Subsequently, all participants completed a computerized acceptability judgment task on 144 questions in both languages. In production and comprehension, all speakers clearly differentiated between languages in matrix and embedded questions. For long-distance wh-questions, we found an interaction of group and language: In English, only late learners produced medial constructions in the L2; in Plautdietsch, only heritage speakers produced medial-wh in their L1. This pattern cannot be due to transfer since speakers/groups produced medial-wh in only one of their languages. Instead, medial-wh surfaces as a mechanism to reduce syntactic complexity in the less dominant language, irrespective of whether it is the L1 or the L2 or whether it was acquired early or late. These group differences partially extend to comprehension. We argue that the DCH can account for grammatical restructuring in both heritage L1 speakers and late L2 speakers and discuss its potential as a metric of incomplete acquisition and attrition in bilingual syntax. References: Jakubowicz C (2005) The language faculty: (Ab)normal development and interface constraints. Unpublished paper presented at GALA 2005, University of Siena, Italy. Jakubowicz, C., & Strik, N. (2008). Scope-marking strategies in the acquisition of long distance wh-questions in French and Dutch. Language and Speech, 51(1-2), 101-132. Schulz, B. (2011). Syntactic creativity in second language English: wh-scope marking in Japanese-English interlanguage. Second language research, 27(3), 313-341. Slavkov, N. (2014). Long-distance wh-movement and long-distance wh-movement avoidance in L2 English: Evidence from French and Bulgarian speakers. Second Language Research, 0267658314554939. 150-word summary: In a comparative study of heritage L1 and late L2 acquisition, we investigate the production and comprehension of filler-gap dependencies in Plautdietsch and English. Exploring whether medial-wh in heritage and L2 speakers is due to cross-linguistic transfer or grammar-internal complexity reduction according to the Derivational Complexity Hypothesis (DCH), we found an interaction of group and languages: In English, only late learners produced medial-wh in the L2; in Plautdietsch, only heritage speakers produced them in their L1. This pattern cannot be due to transfer since speakers/groups produced medial-wh in only one of their languages. Instead, medial-wh surfaces as a mechanism to reduce syntactic complexity in the less dominant language, irrespective of the factor L1/L2 and age of acquisition. We argue that the DCH can account for grammatical restructuring in both heritage L1 and late L2 speakers and discuss its potential as a metric of incomplete acquisition and attrition in bilingual syntax.

Further information:

L1 acquisition / Heritage language acquisition - Session I

Place:

Auditori
Other activities in L1 acquisition / Heritage language acquisition - Session I

12:30 h. to 13:00 h.

Oral presentation

Comparing sentential subject production: English heritage vs. English L2 learners

Speaker: Sonja  Mujcinovic, Universidad de Valladolid

13:00 h. to 13:30 h.

Oral presentation

Heritage language acquisition in Cyprus: longitudinal and cross-sectional analysis

Speaker: Sviatlana Karpava, University of Central Lancashire

11:30 h. to 12:00 h.

Oral presentation

Color your first intuition: A study on antecedent selection using the Coloring Book method

Speaker: Manuela Pinto, Universiteit Utrecht
Speaker: Shalom Zuckerman, Universiteit Utrecht


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