GRS LX 700
Language Acquisition
and
Linguistic Theory
Week 9.
Second Language Acquisition:
introduction
Scientific study of language




What constitutes one’s knowledge of language?
How is that knowledge acquired?
Looking at adult native languages, we’ve found
that language is very complex (see LX 522, 523,
for example)
Looking at kids, we’ve found that kids seem to
learn this complicated system with surprisingly
little help from the environment.
L1 acquisition

We posited a genetic predisposition for
language, something which guides the kinds of
languages kids learn (Universal Grammar):




Kids learn fast
Kids end up with systems that are more complicated
than the input data justifies (they can judge
ungrammatical sentences in the same way as other
native speakers).
Kids don’t fail to learn language despite differences in
environment, and without getting or making use of
negative evidence.
Kids seem to go through similar stages, across kids,
across languages.
But what about L2
acquisition?




Adults seem to have a harder time learning
language than kids do learning their first
language (there may be a “critical period”).
Adult second language learners rarely reach a
native-speaker-like level of competence.
Adult second language learners already know a
language.
Adult second language learners are often given
negative evidence (“you don’t say it that way”)
when taught in a classroom.
L2A seems very
different from L1A.

Is L2A like learning to play chess? Like
learning calculus? Do we just learn the
rules of the language and apply them
(sometimes forgetting some of the rules,
never quite learning all of them, etc.)?

It’s very tempting to think that’s true.
Scientific study of language
What constitutes one’s knowledge of language?
 How is that knowledge acquired?


We can still study these questions in L2A
as well and try to determine the answers,
whether they are related to the answers
we got for L1A or not.

And perhaps surprisingly, they might be.
L2 competence

Learners of a second language have some kind
of (systematic) linguistic knowledge. They have
retained their L1 knowledge, and they have
knowledge of a sort which approximates
(perhaps poorly) the knowledge held by a native
speaker of the learner’s L2.

This knowledge is often referred to as an
interlanguage grammar—not L1, not L2, but
something different (…and to what extent this
knowledge might be related to or influenced by
L1 or L2 is yet to be determined).
A real-world example,
Japanese case-marker
omission

Adult knowledge is complicated, relies on the
Empty Category Principle, which says that an
empty category (including a dropped Case
marker) must be properly governed.

The ECP is taken to be responsible for the face
that in Japanese you can drop a Case marker in
object position but you cannot drop a Case
marker in subject position.
Kanno 1996

John ga sono hon o yonda.
nom that book acc read
‘John read that book.’

John ga sono hon _ yonda.
nom that book Ø read
‘John read that book.’

* John _ sono hon o yonda.
Ø that book acc read
‘John read that book.’
Kanno 1996

English speakers (learning Japanese) know the
ECP, because they know:




Who did you say Ø t left?
*Who did you say that t left?
But this is a very different context of use from the
use in Case marker drop. The question is:
Do English speakers respect the ECP in their
interlanguage grammar (toward Japanese)?
A broader way to ask the question: Is the
interlanguage grammar constrained by UG?
…but a flawed premise



It’s really hard to test this kind of thing.
Do English speakers actually know the ECP? Or do they
just know that *Who did you say that left? ?
The usual theoretical claim: ECP holds of Language,
including English; *Who did you say that left? is a
consequence of the more general constraint.


If English speakers know the ECP, they know the ECP.
Thus, if they obey the ECP in L2 Japanese, this is
probably transfer of knowledge from the L1, not some
kind of direct intervention by UG. Or at least we can’t tell
the difference, contrary to the premise of Kanno’s
experiment.
…but a flawed premise

Kanno’s conclusions tacitly rely on this
assumption:


ECP is a property of the LAD, you can only learn an
L1 that obeys the ECP. The L1 you learn if you learn
English, however, is simply a set of context-specific
rules that applies to *Who did you say that left? but
has nothing to say about Case marker drop, since
there are no Case markers in English.
…but the hypothesis of modern theoretical
syntax is that ECP is a property of the language
knowledge, playing a role in
generating/judging/comprehending English.
Kanno 1996

Let’s look at the experiment anyway, though…

Kanno tested 26 college students in Japanese II
on case particle drop.
In an effort to ensure that the students, if
successful, will have “gone beyond the input”,
she examined what the students would have
been exposed to by the textbook up to the point
where they took the test, to see if they were
taught when not to drop the case markers.

What the Japanese II students
saw…

41 cases of object case-marker drop, like:


Enpitsu Ø kudasai ?
pencil
give
‘Can you give me a pencil?’
8 cases of subject case-marker drop, in the
exceptional case when it is allowed (with a final
emphatic particle—these don’t violate the ECP):

John Ø sono hon o yonda yo.
John that book acc read part
‘John (indeed) read the book.’ (I think)
What the Japanese II students
saw…

Certain verbs have nominative case on
their objects, and case can be dropped on
those objects too…


John ga kankokugo (ga) dekimasu.
John nom Korean nom can-do
‘John can speak Korean.’
69 of 110 such verbs in the book had the
object case marker dropped.
What the Japanese II students
saw…

Japanese allows arguments to be omitted
(somewhat like Italian pro drop), so there
were many cases with just one argument
(the object) with no case marker:

Kami Ø irimasu ka?
paper need
Q
‘Do you need paper? / Is paper necessary?’
What the Japanese II students
saw…

Worst of all, the topic marker can be
dropped, which looks a lot like a subject
marker being dropped.

Tanaka-san (wa) itsu kaimasita ka?
top when bought Q
‘When did Tanaka buy it?’
‘As for Tanaka, when did he buy it?’
What the Japanese II students
saw…

“ga [nom] might be deleted, but with a reduction
of the emphasis and focus conveyed by its
inclusion.” (No hint that sometimes—even
usually—it is not allowed)

“If o [acc] is deleted, [the object] would simply
lose a bit of its emphasis and focus. On the
other hand, the addition of o would give added
emphasis and focus.”
The poor Japanese II
students…

There’s pretty much no way they could
have reached the right generalization
based on what they were provided.
Nom can be dropped from object position
 Top can be dropped from subject position
 Nom subject can be dropped with a particle
 Explicit instruction was only about emphasis.


But did they anyway?
The experiment

To test this, the sentences used wh-words.
Wh-words in general do not allow topic
marking, so if the particle is dropped from
a subject wh-word, it could not have been
a topic drop.
subject wa wh-phrase Ø verb Q?
 *subject Ø wh-phrase acc verb Q?
 pro wh-phrase Ø verb Q?
 *wh-phrase Ø pro verb Q?

Kanno’s missing controls

Here’s why wh-subjects were tested:





Subject marker ga cannot be dropped in L1J.
Topic marker wa can be dropped in L1J.
Wh-phrases do not allow wa in L1J.
Hence, a wh-subject with no marker, for L1J, would have
an illicitly dropped subject marker.
The first two points follow from the ECP and the
general knowledge that things can be dropped. But
do the students know that wh-phrases do not allow
wa? If not, we’re back to square one.

She did address this objection by citing a difference
between 1-argument and 2-argument test items with
respect to whether ga is droppable for test subjects who
seemed to be counterexamples.
Kanno’s missing controls




Subjects were given controls to test their
naturalness rating of dropped case markers in
general.
But the crucial contrast has to do with the
naturalness of overt vs. dropped case markers
on wh-words.
Yet no naturalness measure of an overt case or
topic marker on a wh-phrase was obtained.
So, we’re left comparing overt case markers on
non-wh-words with dropped case markers on
wh-words.
Kanno’s results
3
2.8
2.6
2.4
2.2
NP wa NP —
NP — NP o
2
pro NP —
1.8
NP — pro
1.6
1.4
1.2
1
Students
NSs
“UG” in L2A



Kanno’s conclusion L2 learners of Japanese
have nevertheless (statistically significantly, as a
group) gotten the rule about dropping subject
case markers, despite the lack of evidence from
the textbook, the instructor, or even English.
That is, they appear to know the ECP.
This shows that L2 learners are able to bring
their knowledge of the ECP from L1 to bear on
L2A.

(But it doesn’t reach Kanno’s conclusion that UG as
opposed to L1 is constraining L2A.)
Statistically significantly,
as a group…



The other thing that is surprisingly often
overlooked is that the hypothesis is not
about groups, it is about learners.
Yet in many studies, results are reported
solely in terms of the group. And all this
really tells us is that probably some in the
group conform to the hypothesis.
What about the performance of individual
subjects?
Statistically significantly,
as a group…

To look at the performance by subject, Kanno
classified each subject in terms of their
preferences (whether that particular subject
generally rated ga drop or o drop more
favorably).

And, while not 100-0, the subjects
overwhelmingly preferred o drop. So the
conclusion (that the L2’ers are obeying the ECP)
appears to be safe.
All I really needed to know I
learned in UG

“The linkage of concept and sound can be acquired on
minimal evidence, so variation [among languages] here is
not surprising. However, the possible sounds are narrowly
constrained, and the concepts may be virtually fixed. It is
hard to imagine otherwise, given the rate of lexical
acquisition, which is about a word an hour from ages two to
eight, with lexical items typically acquired on a single
exposure, in highly ambiguous circumstances, but
understood in delicate and extraordinary complexity that
goes vastly beyond what is recorded in the most
comprehensive dictionary, which, like the most
comprehensive traditional grammar, merely gives hints
that suffice for people who basically know the answers,
largely innately.” Chomsky (2000, New Horizons in the
Study of Language and Mind), p. 120.
Influence of UG in some form
is probably inevitable…


Like in L1A, the input is almost certainly
degenerate, and the negative evidence there
might be isn’t enough to make the subtle
complexities of language learnable, and for
negative evidence (in the form of correction) to
be of any use, L2 learners have to make errors,
yet for these subtle complexities, the learners
don’t seem to make the crucial errors that would
be required to learn them.
Kanno’s experiment (among others) shows that
L2 learners seem to “go beyond the evidence.”
How is UG “used” in L2A?



What is UG really?
Probably the simplest view of it is that
UG constrains the kinds of
languages we can learn. For the
moment, assume we’re talking about
L1A.
UG says: You can’t learn a language
that lacks the ECP. You can’t learn a
language that doesn’t respect
constraints on movement out of an
How is UG “used” in L2A?

UG shaped your L1, we take that to be
essentially beyond dispute in some form… but
when you learn L2, you still know L1.

So, perhaps: UG constrains how you learn L2
(directly, like it constrained your L1)
Or, perhaps: Your L1 constrains how you learn
L2 (indirectly, UG constrains L1, L1 constrains
L2)
Or, perhaps: Nothing language-related
constrains how you learn L2—it’s like learning
chess.


How is UG “used” in L2A?

A lot of the early (198*) studies tried to
classify their hypotheses about the
involvement of UG in L2A in terms of
“access”.

Full Access—UG constrains L2A.


(Partial Access—UG constrains L2A partly.)
No/Indirect Access—UG is not involved
in L2A (except insofar as it constrains L1)
An independent question—
what role does L1 play in L2A?



Full Transfer—the properties
(parameters) of L1 are taken as the
“starting point” in L2A.
Partial Transfer—some of the
parameters of L1 are taken as the
“starting point” in L2A, while some
others start in an independent setting.
No Transfer—the parameter settings of
L1 do not affect L2A.
Access hypotheses

The model these early hypotheses work
with is essentially that UG provides a
blueprint or a template for languages,
which is used to create a concrete
instantiation of a language.
•Principles
L1A
•Parm 1: — (A, B)
•Parm 2: — (A, B, C)
•…
UG
•Active Principles
•Parm 1: A
•Parm 2: B
•…
L1
Access hypotheses

Once L1 has been instantiated, the
template might become unavailable. In this
case, the only available information about
what languages are like is what’s
instantiated in L1.
•Principles
•Parm 1: — (A, B)
•Parm 2: — (A, B, C)
•…
UG
•Active Principles
•Parm 1: A
•Parm 2: B
•…
L1
Access hypotheses

The No/Indirect access hypothesis
supposes that the principles and
parameters of L1 (but not the information in
UG) are available in forming an instantiation
of L2.
•Principles
•Parm 1: — (A, B)
•Parm 2: — (A, B, C)
•…
UG
•Active Principles
•Parm 1: A
•Parm 2: B
•…
L1
Access hypotheses

The full access
hypothesis supposes
that the template is
still available to
instantiate L2 the
same way L1 was
instantiated.
•Active Principles
•Parm 1: B
•Parm 2: A
•…
L2A
•Principles
L1A
•Parm 1: — (A, B)
•Parm 2: — (A, B, C)
•…
UG
•Active Principles
•Parm 1: A
•Parm 2: B
•…
L2
L1
Access hypotheses

A partial access hypothesis
supposes that certain parts of
the template are no longer
available (fixed in the L1
settings) but other parts can
still be used to instantiate L2.
•Active Principles
•Parm 1: A
•Parm 2: C
•…
L2A
•Principles
L1A
•Parm 1: — (A, B)
•Parm 2: — (A, B, C)
•…
UG
•Active Principles
•Parm 1: A
•Parm 2: B
•…
L2
L1
Distinguishing between
access hypotheses



The no access hypothesis takes L2A to be a general
learning process, not constrained by properties of UG.
As such, we do not expect the IL of second language
learners to conform to the specifications of UG. We
expect that the IL would be free to exhibit properties
unlike any natural language (L1).
So we look for “wildness” in the IL grammar of second
language learners—for indications of grammar which
would not qualify as an L1.
Distinguishing between
access hypotheses

The full access hypothesis, on the other hand,
predicts that IL grammars of second language
learners, even while not actually the grammar of
the target language, will still conform to the
restrictions UG places on natural languages. It
will operate under the same principles, and it will
have parameters which are set to a setting
which is possible in natural language.
Distinguishing between
access hypotheses

The partial access hypothesis is the least well-defined. It
places itself somewhere between full access and no
access.



We might see that a second language learner’s IL shows evidence
of parameter settings different from the L1 (or not, depending on
which parts of UG we are hypothesizing L2A access to).
We might see evidence of principles not used in L1 but provided
for in UG.
The partial access hypothesis is basically the fallback
position, the compromise we need to make if the facts
don’t fit into one of the other hypotheses.
Access/Transfer

The basic hypotheses out there to explore and evaluate
(not including retreats to partial transfer and/or access):

Full transfer/No access: L2 knowledge is fundamentally
different from L1 knowledge, based on L1 knowledge plus
conversion rules.
Full transfer/Full access: L2A is as flexible as L1A, with L1
as the starting point. L1 and L2 “distance” should affect
ease/course of acquisition.
No transfer/Full access: L2A is as flexible as L1A, and the
learner’s L1 should not have an effect.


A note about UG

In this context, UG is probably best thought of
as defining a “shape” that language
knowledge can take.


Parameters define ways in which stored
knowledge can conform to the “shape” of UG.
The LAD is a system which analyzes the PLD
and sets the parameters.
LAD
UG
PLD
Binding Theory
Subjacency
Principles and Parameters

So two languages which differ with respect to
one parameter setting might be represented
kind of like this.
Language
A
Language
B
Modeling human language
capacity


Many of the discussions about “UG access” seem to confound
these two aspects of the human language capacity. But it could
be that the LAD becomes impaired/inactive after L1A while the
“shape of language knowledge” is still available for L2A.
(It could also be that the “shape” of UG is completely determined
by LAD—that’s the interpretation that I called “confounded.” It’s
not internally inconsistent, but it isn’t a necessary—or even
usual—interpretation of UG)
LAD
UG
PLD
Binding Theory
Subjacency
In favor of no access…



The well-known “critical period” effects seem to point
toward a view like no access; adult L2A is much less
uniform, typically not fully successful, and appears to
involve much more conscious effort.
Proponents argue that their observations about
differences in the course and end result of L2A (vs. L1A)
indicate that principles of UG are not being obeyed (for
example, learners positing rules that appeal to linear
order, rather than structure, contra Structure
Dependency).
Keep in mind that these arguments are really arguments
about LAD and not about UG as the “shape of language
knowledge” though.
For example…


Meisel (1997) looked at L1A and L2A of negation in
German, French, and Basque.
In L1A in the three languages, negation appears to go
through similar stages.

First, it is placed externally (generally initially, sometimes finally),
unlike in the adult language



No(t) I go home
I go home no(t).
Then, it appears sentence-internally, in an appropriate position with
respect to the tensed verb for the target language (differs by
language).
L1A: Once children show evidence of knowing how to use
finite verbs, they seem to have no particular trouble with the
syntax of negation in the target language.
Meisel (1997)

For L2A, the consensus opinion from previous studies
seems to be that second language learners, regardless
of target and first languages seem to go through pretty
much invariant stages with respect to negation.


First, preverbal or initial negation.
Then, more target-like internal negation.

Sounds like the L1A sequences; this made people eager
to try to apply the same explanations.

However, almost all of these studies used English as the
target language, and in fact some studies seemed to
have “missed” the first stage. Bottom line: that
“consensus opinion” is pretty suspect.
Meisel (1997)



Closer investigation reveals that not all second language
learners go through an “initial negation” stage, even if the
L1 has preverbal negation.
And, unlike in L1A, where there is an initial negation stage,
it does not seem to disappear at the same time as the
control of finite verbs.
Whereas “initial negation” in L1A is usually sentence-initial
(before the subject), “initial negation” in L2A is often
preverbal (but after the subject).


That is to say, people were not careful with what they were willing
to call “initial negation” when they were jumping on the L2Asequence-is-like-L1A-sequence bandwagon.
Meisel suggests that initial negation is actually a characteristic of a
certain kind of learner, a reflection of a strategy that (some) people
use in L2A.
Meisel (1997)

Rather than observing structure-dependent
negation placement based on [±finite], the
results tend to suggest strategies based on
linear order (i.e. put negation after the verb).

Meisel concludes that any UG involvement in
L2A is much less clear given these differences
between L1A and L2A.
Concerning this argument



Notice that this is primarily an argument about
sequence of acquisition. Roughly, the idea is:
Because the sequence of L1A and L2A do not
match, and assuming L1A is driven by UG, L2A can’t
be also driven by UG.
In short, this seems to be an argument about
whether the (L1) LAD is involved in L2A. It doesn’t
really fully reach the question of whether UG
constrains L2A.
To show the UG does not constrain L2A, we should
be looking for IL grammars that are UG-illicit
(regardless of how they are arrived at).

This question will recur through much upcoming discussion…
To argue for full access…

Threads of argumentation:

Second language learners obey certain
universal principles which (appear to) work
differently in the TL than in the learners’ L1.


(E.g., Kanno 1996 discussed earlier…)
Second language learners’ IL knowledge
show evidence of a parameter setting different
from their L1, indicating that the parametric
options are still available
In favor of full access…



A simple example of thread two, from Flynn
(1996), is L2A between Japanese and English.
Japanese and English differ in their setting of the
“head parameter”, which indicates whether the
object comes before the verb (Japanese, SOV,
head-final) or after the verb (English, SVO, headinitial).
L2 J-->E learners appear to very quickly set this IL
parameter correctly, suggesting that they know
that both head-initial and head-final are possible
settings for this parameter, although their L1
parameter is committed to head-final.
In favor of full access…



Flynn on Subjacency (thread one):
In Japanese, wh-words are not “moved” to the
beginning of a wh-question; Japanese is a “whin-situ” language. Its wh-words appear in the
same position that the trace “appears” in
English.
Assumption: Subjacency is concerned only with
displacement of wh-words. It is a principle which
says that a wh-word cannot be displaced out of
certain kinds of islands (conjunctions, embedded
questions, complex noun phrases, …).
In favor of full access…

Thus, Subjacency does not seem to rule out any
wh-questions in Japanese. It is possible to ask
questions like:



‘You met the man that gave what to Mary?’
Cf. *Whati did you meet the man that gave ti to Mary?
Flynn takes this to mean that Subjacency is
essentially “inactive” in Japanese. It does not
play a role in wh-question formation in
Japanese.
In favor of full access…

Supposing that Subjacency is not active in
Japanese, Flynn considers L2A of English by
Japanese speakers.



Would these second language learners nevertheless
obey Subjacency in English?
Do they still have access to this principle provided by
UG even though it is not used in their L1?
Flynn’s experiments seem to indicate that
Japanese speakers learning L2 English do obey
Subjacency, and concludes that they must
therefore still have access to UG during L2A.
Getting at the “IL grammar”


What do the L2 learners know?
*Productions: We don’t have a great deal of
success learning about the structure of linguistic
knowledge in the native speaker domain by
looking just at productions. Things aren’t
different for L2 learners.


No information on what is ungrammatical—at best,
information on what is dispreferred/avoided.
Performance errors happen, but that doesn’t indicate
a lack of competence.
Grammaticality judgments

One way of testing people’s (whole)
competence is to ask them to rate sentences
in their second language.

Who did you say that bought John dinner?
1-bad
2-a little weird
3-natural

I wonder what will John wear tomorrow.
1-bad
2-a little weird
3-natural
GJ tasks aren’t perfect,
though…

As in any experiment, you may have biases…

Some people are hesitant to take an extreme
position, may never rate a sentence 1 or 3.

Some people may rate the sentences based on how
much sense it makes, rather than on the syntactic
structure. And it’s hard to correct for that, because if
you ask someone what’s wrong with

What did you laugh after John bought for Sue?
(or how to correct it), even native speakers won’t be
able to say.
GJ tasks

But we have the same trouble with kids too…
We can try to employ the same kinds of tricks
with adults…





acting out a sentence
identifying which picture best depicts the subject
matter of the sentence
judging whether a sentence is true or false of a
scene.
answering an ambiguous question to see wh-word
scope.
…
Locating the
source of the errors

Suppose that an adult L2 learner of E. rates



What did you laugh after John bought for Sue?
as natural. Does that mean they don’t know
Subjacency?
Well, not necessarily. They may also not
understand how to make complex clauses,
adverbial clauses, etc.
Like with kids and quantifiers Principle B, one
can only really say that people know or don’t
know a principle of UG once they have the
appropriate structures to apply them to.
“How involved is UG in L2A?”

Very (UG constrains IL) vs. not (L1 constrains IL)

To figure out which is right, we need to look at UG
constraints or parameters which are not used in
the learner’s L1. If there is something that holds in
all languages, say, the q-criterion, showing that L2
learners respect the q-criterion doesn’t tell us
whether that is because UG required it or
because their L1 does.
Two possible things to look at

Parameter settings which vary between L1
and L2…



English: Bounding nodes for Subjacency are DP
and IP.
Italian/French: Bounding nodes for Subjacency
are DP and CP.
Universal principles which are inapplicable in
L1 but apply in L2…

The ECP as used to control case marker drop in
Japanese
“Universal principles
inapplicable in L1?”

As our theories of syntax develop, finding
such things becomes harder and harder,
since the goal of theoretical syntax is in
general to say “All languages are really the
same except for some very surface-y
phenomena.”
wh-movement




Circa 1981, English moved its wh-words,
Japanese didn’t, so Subjacency wasn’t relevant
for Japanese.
However, since then, the proposals have
changed—all languages move their wh-words to
SpecCP, just some do it after SS.
Evidence has appeared which shows that under
the right conditions, Japanese does respect
Subjacency.
Thus: Looking at whether Japanese speakers
learning English respect Subjacency or not still
hasn’t necessarily gotten away from L1.
Atrophied options?


The L2A literature has historically taken a fairly
old, conservative view of UG. It tends to assume
that UG provides options from which languages
choose, and that something that a language
doesn’t choose might become unavailable as a
choice later.
That is, the underlying assumption seems to be
that English speakers don’t know the ECP, really.
That Japanese speakers don’t know Subjacency.

Modern syntacticians just don’t think of syntax as
working this way anymore. This kind of view is a little
bit closer to what people still mostly believe about
certain aspects of phonology, though. More in a bit…
Parameters


The bottom line is: it’s going to be hard to make
a convincing case that you’ve got a principle of
UG which is not known (utilized) by an L1
speaker. Perhaps, if you are lucky, you might
find something plausible now, but advances in
syntactic theory will do everything they can to
undermine your position.
However, languages do differ in the values of the
parameters (e.g., Subjacency bounding nodes).
Thread two is the way to go.
Parameters


We can also look at aspects of parameter setting
in L2A.
Part transfer (what settings get adopted as part
of the initial state of the the second language
learner’s interlanguage grammar?), part
accessibility/involvement of UG (can second
language learners “reset” these parameters? If
so, the lists of options provided by UG are still
available—that is, UG is available/involved).
Phonological parameters



Describing adult native-speaker
phonological grammars requires abstract
structures not unlike the structures
required for syntax.
Just like for syntax, differences between
languages can be characterized in terms
of phonological parameters.
And in this domain, there might actually be
something like “phonological options not
used in the L1” to talk about.
Some basic concepts




There is a fairly well-defined set of
possible sounds that languages make use
of.
Languages differ in which of these sounds
play a role in the language.
For example, some languages have a
sound like the English v, some don’t.
The “unit of sound” is the segment.
Some basic concepts

There are a lot of different things that go
into determining a segment.
Place of articulation
 Voicing
 Manner of articulation
 Aspiration
 Tenseness/laxness of tongue
 …

Segment distinctions








/p/ vs. /t/ vs. /k/ : place of articulation
/p/ vs. /b/, /t/ vs. /d/: ±voice
/t/ vs. /s/: ±continuant
/s/ vs. /sh/: ±distributive
/e/ vs. /i/: ±high
/e/ vs. /a/: ±back
/a/ vs. /o/: ±round
…
Some basic concepts




Languages differ in what they “pay attention to” when
differentiating segments from one another.
English does not distinguish aspirated and non-aspirated
consonants. The p in pit is aspirated (ph), the p in spit. They
“sound the same” to speakers of English.
Other languages distinguish p from ph—so pit and phit could
be different words, with different meanings.
The distinguishable segments in a language are the
phonemes of the language. One parameter of variation
between languages is their phonemic inventory.
R vs. L


An oft-used example of this is the distinction
between r vs. l in English and the lack of said
distinction in languages like Chinese, Japanese,
and Korean.
In Korean, for example, both segments are
used, but it is phonologically conditioned—
between vowels, it is r and elsewhere it is l. You
don’t get to choose which one you use in a given
context. So there’s no distinction. (Sunhi-lul =
[…-rul])
L1A and contrasts


Little kids start out being able to distinguish contrasts
between all possible segments, but quickly zoom in on the
contrasts in their environment, losing the contrasts… Looks
like a critical period, difficult for UG in L2A…
From Werker (1994): Hindi-English
ba ~ da
H adults
Fine
E infants (6-8mo) Fine
E kids (up to 4)
Fine
E adults
Fine
d h a ~ th a
Fine
Fine
Bad
Poor
Ta ~ ta
Fine
Fine
Bad
Bad
L2A and UG


We can ask many of the same questions we
asked about syntax, but of phonology.
Learners have an interlanguage grammar of
phonology as well.




Is this grammar primarily a product of transfer?
Can parameters be set for the target language
values?
Do interlanguage phonologies act like real languages
(constrained by UG)?
Here, it it rather obvious just from our anecdotal
experience with the world that transfer plays a
big role and parameters are hard to set (to a
value different from the L1’s value).
Phonological interference



If L1’ers lose the ability to hear a contrast
not in the L1, there is a strong possibility
that the L1 phonology filters the L2 input.
L2’ers may not be getting the same data
as L1’ers. Even if the LAD were still
working, it would be getting different data.
If you don’t perceive the contrast, you
won’t acquire the contrast.
Phonological features

Phonologists over the years have come up with a
system of (universal) features that differentiate
between sounds.




/p/ vs. /b/ differ in [+voice].
/p/ vs. /f/ differ in [+continuant].
…
What L1’ers seem to be doing is determining which
features contrast in the language. If the language
doesn’t distinguish voiced from voiceless consonants,
L1’ers come to ignore [±voice].
Phonological features,
filtering



Brown (2000): Presented pairs of nonwords to speakers
of Japanese, Korean, Mandarin.
Japanese and Korean speakers didn’t perceive the l ~ r
contrast, Mandarin speakers did, although none of the
languages has an l ~ r contrast.
However, Mandarin does have other segments which
differ in [+coronal] ([r]), so Mandarin speakers do need to
distinguish [±coronal] elsewhere.
Phonological features,
filtering

Han (1992). Japanese distinguishes geminate from nongeminate stops (consonant length; k vs. kk, e.g., black
owl vs. black cat). English doesn’t (*kkat vs. kat).

English speakers of Japanese (even highly proficient
otherwise) either missed this contrast altogether or
produced long consonants that were not native-like (too
short).
An interesting idea
(courtesy of Carol Neidle)

If you were to learn French, you would be
taught conjugations of regular and
irregular verbs. Regular -er verbs have a
pattern that looks like this:
Infinitive: donner ‘give’
 1sg
je donne 1pl nous donnons
 2sg
tu donnes 2pl vous donnez
 3sg
il donne
3pl ils donnent

Some French “irregulars”





Infinitive: donner ‘give’
1sg
je donne
1pl
2sg
tu donnes
2pl
3sg
il donne
3pl
nous donnons
vous donnez
ils donnent
Another class of verbs including acheter ‘buy’ is
classified as irregular, because the vowel quality
changes through the paradigm.




Infinitive: ceder ‘yield’
1sg
je cède
2sg
tu cèdes
2pl
3sg
il cède
3pl
1pl
nous cédons
vous cédez
ils cèdent
Some French “irregulars”





Infinitive: donner ‘give’
1sg
je donne
1pl
2sg
tu donnes
2pl
3sg
il donne
3pl
nous donnons
vous donnez
ils donnent
The way it’s usually taught, you just have to
memorize that in the nous and vous form you
have “é” and in the others you have “è”.




Infinitive: ceder ‘yield’
1sg
je cède
2sg
tu cèdes
2pl
3sg
il cède
3pl
1pl
nous cédons
vous cédez
ils cèdent
Some French “irregulars”




However, the pattern makes perfect phonological sense in
French—if you have a closed syllable (CVC), you get è,
otherwise you get é.
[sd] (cède)
[se.de] (cédez)
So why is this considered irregular?
Because in English, you think of the sounds in cédez as
[sed.de], due to the rules of English phonology.




Infinitive: ceder ‘yield’ viewed from English
1sg
je cèd(e)
1pl
nous céd.dõ(ns)
2sg
tu cèd(es)
2pl
vous céd.de(z)
3sg
il cèd(e)
3pl
ils cèd(ent)
Some French “irregulars”



Because in English, you think of the sounds in cédez as
[sed.de], due to the rules of English phonology.
Since in all of these cases, English phonology would have
closed syllables, there’s no generalization to be drawn—
sometimes closed syllables have é and sometimes they
have è.
What could we do?




Infinitive: ceder ‘yield’
1sg
je cède [sed] 1pl
2sg
tu cèdes [sed] 2pl
3sg
il cède [sed] 3pl
nous cédons
vous cédez
ils cèdent
[sed.dõ]
[sed.de]
[sed]
Some French “irregulars”

If people are really “built for language” and are able to pick
up language implicitly, then if people are provided with the
right linguistic data, they will more or less automatically
learn the generalization.

Problem is: The English filter on the French data is
obscuring the pattern, and hiding the generalization.




Infinitive: ceder ‘yield’
1sg
je cède [sed] 1pl
2sg
tu cèdes [sed] 2pl
3sg
il cède [sed] 3pl
nous cédons
vous cédez
ils cèdent
[sed.dõ]
[sed.de]
[sed]
Some French “irregulars”


Something to try: Provide people with the right data, see if
they pick up the pronunciation. Perhaps: exaggerate
syllabification (draw attention to it). Perhaps try to instill
this aspect of the phonology first?
Et voilà. Chances are good that this will make these
“irregulars” as easy to learn as regulars!

Does it work? I have no idea.

Infinitive: ceder ‘yield’
1sg
je cède “sed” 1pl
2sg
tu cèdes “sed” 2pl
3sg
il cède “sed” 3pl



nous cédons
vous cédez
ils cèdent
“se—dõ”
“se—de”
“sed”
Where we are

We’re concerned with discovering to what
extent linguistic theory (=theories of UG) bears
on questions of L2A, with an eye toward the
question: To what extent is knowledge of an L2
like knowledge of an L1?

Do they conform to universal principles? (ECP,
Subjacency)


No? UG is not constraining L2. Yes? Consistent with UG
constraining L2, but not evidence for it.
Do they have a parameter setting different from the
L1 (and all of the consequences following
therefrom)?

Yes? UG is constraining L2. No? Inconclusive for the
general case.










Descargar

GRS LX 700 Language Acquisition and Linguistic Theory