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Title:On L2 grammar and processing: the case of oblique relative clauses and the Null-Prep phenomenon
Author(s):Perpinan-Hinarejos, Silvia
Director of Research:Montrul, Silvina A.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Montrul, Silvina A.
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Arregi, Karlos; Ionin, Tania; Benmamoun, Elabbas
Department / Program:Spanish, Italian & Portuguese
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Second language acquisition (SLA)
relative clauses
Null-Prep phenomenon
L2 Processing
L2 Spanish
interlanguage grammars
Abstract:This dissertation investigates the acquisition of oblique relative clauses in L2 Spanish by English and Moroccan Arabic speakers in order to understand the role of previous linguistic knowledge and its interaction with Universal Grammar on the one hand, and the relationship between grammatical knowledge and its use in real-time, on the other hand. Three types of tasks were employed: an oral production task, an on-line self-paced grammaticality judgment task, and an on-line self-paced reading comprehension task. Results indicated that the acquisition of oblique relative clauses in Spanish is a problematic area for second language learners of intermediate proficiency in the language, regardless of their native language. In particular, this study has showed that, even when the learners’ native language shares the main properties of the L2, i.e., fronting of the obligatory preposition (Pied-Piping), there is still room for divergence, especially in production and timed grammatical intuitions. On the other hand, reaction time data have shown that L2 learners can and do converge at the level of sentence processing, showing exactly the same real-time effects for oblique relative clauses that native speakers had. Processing results demonstrated that native and non-native speakers alike are able to apply universal processing principles such as the Minimal Chain Principle (De Vincenzi, 1991) even when the L2 learners still have incomplete grammatical representations, a result that contradicts some of the predictions of the Shallow Structure Hypothesis (Clahsen & Felser, 2006). Results further suggest that the L2 processing and comprehension domains may be able to access some type of information that it is not yet available to other grammatical modules, probably because transfer of certain L1 properties occurs asymmetrically across linguistic domains. In addition, this study also explored the Null-Prep phenomenon in L2 Spanish, and proposed that Null-Prep is an interlanguage stage, fully available and accounted within UG, which intermediate L2 as well as first language learners go through in the development of pied-piping oblique relative clauses. It is hypothesized that this intermediate stage is the result of optionality of the obligatory preposition in the derivation, when it is not crucial for the meaning of the sentence, and when the DP is going to be in an A-bar position, so it can get default case. This optionality can be predicted by the Bottleneck Hypothesis (Slabakova, 2009c) if we consider that these prepositions are some sort of functional morphology. This study contributes to the field of SLA and L2 processing in various ways. First, it demonstrates that the grammatical representations may be dissociated from grammatical processing in the sense that L2 learners, unlike native speakers, can present unexpected asymmetries such as a convergent processing but divergent grammatical intuitions or production. This conclusion is only possible under the assumption of a modular language system. Finally, it contributes to the general debate of generative SLA since in argues for a fully UG-constrained interlanguage grammar.
Issue Date:2010-08-31
Rights Information:Copyright 2010 Silvia Perpiñán
Date Available in IDEALS:2010-08-31
Date Deposited:2010-08

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