The Bottleneck Hypothesis in L2 acquisition: Norwegian L1 speakers’ knowledge of syntax and morphology in English L2
AuthorJensen, Isabel Nadine
In this master’s thesis, we test the Bottleneck Hypothesis (Slabakova 2006; 2008; 2013) in L2 acquisition of English by Norwegian speakers. According to this hypothesis, functional morphology is the bottleneck of L2 acquisition, i.e. the most challenging part for L2 learners to acquire. We test two constructions that do not match in English and Norwegian: subject-verb agreement and verb movement. The former represents knowledge of functional morphology and the latter represents knowledge of syntax. To elaborate, Norwegian is a V2 language in which finite verbs move to the second position in non-subject-initial declaratives. In contrast, English has no verb movement out of VP in these types of sentences. Hence, the learning task for Norwegian speakers of English is to unlearn the V2 rule. Westergaard (2003) has shown that this is a major challenge for Norwegian learners at an early stage. Regarding morphology, English marks present simple tense verbs when the subject is 3rd person singular, whereas Norwegian has no overt subject-verb agreement. Our results indicate that agreement is not only significantly more difficult for the L2 learners, but also a more persistent problem as the learners become more advanced speakers. This suggests that learners develop more in their knowledge of English word order than of agreement. We conclude that our findings lend support to the Bottleneck Hypothesis.
PublisherUiT Norges arktiske universitet
UiT The Arctic University of Norway
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