General programme, activity sheet

Friday 19 September, 2014 12:00 to 13:00 Invited Lecture
Lecture II: Superset and subset grammars in second language acquisition: The role in sonority in the representation of sC clusters
Speaker: Heather Goad, McGill University

sC clusters (span) defy many of the constraints that hold of other obstruent-initial clusters (plan), which has been used to motivate different representations for these two types of clusters: obstruent-initial clusters form branching onsets (1a), while /s/ is located outside of this constituent in sC clusters (1b) (e.g. Goldsmith 1990, Kaye 1992):
(1a) [pl]Ons
(1b) s[p]Ons
Sonority is one dimension on which obstruent-initial and sC clusters differ. The optimal branching onset rises in sonority; sonority plateaus are marked (e.g. Clements 1990). By contrast, the well-formedness of word-initial sC decreases as the sonority of C increases: no language with sC clusters forbids s+stop (Goad 2011):
(2) [[[[s+stop (French)] s+nasal (Greek)] s+lateral (Dutch)] s+rhotic (English)]
The representations in (1) are also supported by the observation that some languages contain clusters of one type only: Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese (BP) have branching onsets but no word-initial sC clusters; Acoma has sC clusters but no branching onsets. As expected, other languages contain neither cluster type (East Asian) while others contain both (Germanic).
This paper explores the predictions of the representations in (1) for second language (L2) acquisition, focusing principally on sC. I consider the challenges for learning both superset languages (East Asian and Ibero-Romance learners of Germanic (data from Enochson 2012, Cardoso 2008)) and subset languages (English learners of BP (Schwartz & Goad 2014)).
When learning a superset language, positive evidence will be available indicating the well-formedness of sC (and obstruent-initial) clusters. Predictions to be examined, along with the results, are in (3):
(3a) L1 East Asian–L2 Germanic: Learners whose L1 has no word-initial clusters should not use the same representation for branching onsets and sC clusters in the L2 (supported);
(3b) L1 Ibero-Romance–L2 Germanic: Learners whose L1 has obstruent-initial clusters only should not use this representation for sC clusters in the L2 (not supported);
(3c) L1 East Asian/Ibero-Romance–L2 Germanic: Learners whose L1 lacks sC clusters should acquire s+stop before s+sonorant, because of the nested typology in (2) (partly supported). When learning a subset language, positive evidence is often not available, suggesting that learners must rely on negative evidence to acquire the grammar. Because L2 learners have been shown to successfully learn subset syllable structure constraints without positive evidence (Trapman & Kager 2009), we suggest that another sort of evidence may be available in some L1-L2 situations: indirect positive evidence (IPE). IPE is evidence from errors in the learner’s L1 made by native speakers of the learner’s L2 (Schwartz & Goad 2014). The predictions are as follows:
(4a) Learners exposed to the ill-formedness of sC through IPE will realize that sC is ill-formed in the language being learned (supported);
(4b) Learners who recognize that sC is ill-formed in the language being learned will not overgeneralize this to obstruent-initial clusters, given (1) (supported);
(4c) Learners exposed only to the ill-formedness of s+stop through IPE will conclude that s+sonorant is also ill-formed, given (2) (supported).
Explanations for all results, both supported and not, will be provided in the context of (1) and (2).

Other activities in 
11:30 h. to 12:00 h.Coffee break

13:00 h. to 14:00 h.Lunch break

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