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Title:A parameters approach to second language research: Testing a directionality prediction of the null subject parameter
Author(s):Yates, Robert Allen
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Maclay, Howard S.
Department / Program:Linguistics
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Education, Language and Literature
Language, Linguistics
Abstract:This study applies insights from present linguistic theory (Chomsky 1981, 1986) to predict what the influence of the first language (L1) is on the acquisition of linguistic competence in a second language (L2). Present linguistic theory claims that differences in languages can be captured by a small number of principles and parameters. Parameters are principles which have several values. Differences in languages are the result of how these values are set for a particular language. The parameter tested in this study is the null subject parameter. This parameter identifies the differences between a language like English which requires overt subject pronouns and a language like Spanish which allows null subject pronouns.
An analysis of the different types of parameters is made. Based on this analysis it is predicted that Spanish speakers learning English will acquire the properties of the null subject parameter in English before English speakers acquire the properties of the null subject parameter in Spanish. Two different judgment tasks were administered to Spanish speakers learning English and English speakers learning Spanish. The results of the first task, a written grammaticality judgment task administered to classroom learners, confirmed the directionality prediction. The scores on judging sentences in the target language by Spanish speakers learning English were higher than the scores by English speakers learning Spanish. The results of a second task, a coreferential judgment task administered to highly proficient L2 speakers of Spanish and English, did not confirm the results of the written grammaticality judgment task. Both groups of advanced L2 speakers appeared to transfer interpretations from L1 sentences to equivalent L2 sentences.
Although these results raise questions about the status of the null subject parameter in L2 acquisition, they provide evidence that L1 does influence the acquisition of a second language.
Issue Date:1990
Rights Information:Copyright 1990 Yates, Robert Allen
Date Available in IDEALS:2011-05-07
Identifier in Online Catalog:AAI9114474
OCLC Identifier:(UMI)AAI9114474

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