The acquisition of wh-in-situ constructions in second language acquisition
Choi, Myong Hee.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Georgetown University, 2009.; Includes bibliographical references. This study investigated the interpretation of wh-in-situ expressions in L2 Korean by adult native speakers of English. Previous L2 studies within a generative grammar framework focused on knowledge of constraints on wh-movement in languages such as English, and attributed non-nativelike outcomes to a failure by learners to select a strong uninterpretable wh-feature that is argued to parametrically distinguish wh-movement from wh-in-situ languages (Hawkins & Chan 1997; Hawkins & Hattori 2006). However, this dissertation argues that such parameter-resetting accounts are not sufficient to capture the nature of the learning problems facing native English speakers acquiring Korean.; In Korean, wh-in-situ words can receive multiple readings. For example, mwues 'THING' receives a question reading ('what') when it occurs with a question particle, but it has an obligatory indefinite reading ('something') when it co-occurs with rising intonation in matrix interrogatives or with a declarative particle in embedded clauses. Thus, Korean wh-expressions are variables which require particular licensing environments to be interpreted (Aoun & Li 1993).; In this study, 47 native English speakers at high-intermediate and advanced proficiency levels of L2 Korean were administered two types of translation tasks along with a truth-value judgment task in order to explore their knowledge of Korean wh-expressions according to the contextual co-occurrence of relevant intonation patterns and sentential particles. The results indicated that English-speaking learners from both proficiency groups showed statistically better performance on the question reading than on the indefinite reading in both prosodic and morphological licensing environments. The incorrect question interpretation declines as development proceeds, but non-targetlike interpretations persist among several advanced learners.; These findings suggest that the greatest difficulty for adult L2 learners does not reside in parametric selection, because both L1 and L2 grammars select the relevant features generating wh-expressions. Instead, the L2 learners whose L1 wh-words are lexicalized with an operator and a variable together within a single lexical item appear to have difficulty in reconfiguring these features into a different L2 configuration in which wh-elements are variables and its licensors are realized on distinct lexical items. This study implements a Feature-Reassembly approach (Lardiere 2008) to best account for the L2 acquisition data.
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