The Relationship between Syntactic Clustering of Obligatory/Null Subject Parameters and Proficiency Levels in L2 Acquisition:New Evidence from a Grammaticality Judgment Test

| September 28, 2007
Title
The Relationship between Syntactic Clustering of Obligatory/Null Subject Parameters and Proficiency Levels in L2 Acquisition:New Evidence from a Grammaticality Judgment Test

Keywords: clustering effects, developmental correlations, finite clauses, infinitival clauses, non-finite clauses, null subject, obligatory overt subject, parameter (re)setting , parametric variation, PRO

Authors
Masoud Khalili Sabet and Manijeh Youhanaee
University of Isfahan

Bio Data
Masoud Khalili Sabet, PhD candidate in applied linguistics (University of Isfahan), is currently presenting EFL courses at the University of Guilan. His major teaching and research interests as well as (inter)national conference paper themes include L1 & L2 syntax acquisition, L2 reading and writing strategies, ESP and testing English as L2.

Manijeh Youhanaee, associate lecturer, holds a PhD in language and linguistics from the University of Essex. She is currently the head of the English Department at University of Isfahan. She has presented MA and PhD courses in linguistics, Generative Grammar and second language acquisition. Her areas of interest include syntactic theory, acquisition of L2 & L3 syntax, L2 acquisition of word order versus morphological markers and properties of L2 lexical attrition.

Abstract
This action research investigates Persian learners clustering acquisition of overt obligatory subjects and PRO in infinitival clauses in English as L2. In L1 acquisition research, the correlations between superficially unrelated linguistic phenomena are analyzed in terms of clustering effects. For instance, in German L1 acquisition, there is evidence for a clustering acquisition of subject-verb agreement and the decrease of (incorrect) null subjects (Clahsen and Hong, 1995). The developmental connection between these two phenomena in L1 acquisition has been interpreted as clustering appearance of syntactic properties of non-pro condition. Thus, the present research will report on a grammaticality judgment test ( GJT) investigating the clustering appearance of obligatory overt subjects and PRO in infinitival clauses in 60 Persian learners of English divided into three proficiency levels, each level consisting of ten early starters and ten late starters. Our main finding is that the two phenomena covary in the Persian learners indicating that properties of overt obligatory subjects and PRO in infinitival clauses are acquired through parameter resetting, rather than separately. Moreover, we observed no difference between the performance of early and late starters with respect to clustering acquisition of the above linguistic variables.

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See pages 180-197

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Category: Quarterly Journal, Volume 9 Issue 3