"Unlearning". On the acquisition of case absorption effects in English passives by native speakers of Norwegian
This thesis deals with advanced L2 acquisition of syntax. There are several central questions in the thesis: -How does the interlanguage of an advanced L2 speaker differ from the internal grammar of a native speaker of the same language? -Can a L2 acquirer come to realize that a syntactic structure is ungrammatical in the L2 when it is grammatical in the L1, when he encounters no positive evidence of the ungrammaticality in the L2, and no direct negative evidence in the form of feedback or instruction? -If L2 acquirers can learn that a syntactic structure is ungrammatical in the L2 when it is grammatical in the L1 without positive evidence or direct negative evidence, how does this happen? In order to find answers to these questions, Norwegian L2 acquirers of English are tested on their awareness of the difference in case assignment in Norwegian and English passives. The assumption is that passive morphology ”absorbs” case in English, but not in Norwegian. This difference results in impersonal passives with postverbal NPs and passivized intransitive verbs being grammatical in Norwegian but not in English. The results of the study suggest that the L2 acquirers avoid such structures in their English performance, and that they are more reluctant to judge such sentences grammatical in English than in Norwegian, but that they generally do not have a firm knowledge of the ungrammaticality of such sentences in English. On the basis of these results, it is suggested that indirect negative evidence in the form of absence of structures in the input may play a role in L2 acquisition, but that this evidence has an impact on performance first. Only gradually may such evidence come to change the interlanguage, thus making it more similar to the internal grammar of a L1 speaker.
PublisherUniversitetet i Tromsø
University of Tromsø
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