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Bookmark and Share Paper 1544

Transferring Information-Structural Patterns from Swedish to German
Ute Bohnacker and Christina Rosén
27-38 (complete paper or proceedings contents)


This paper deals with the L2 acquisition of German and the influence of a closely related L1, Swedish, in the domains of syntax (word order) and information structure. Contrary to existing claims in the literature on the nonnative acquisition of verb-second (V2) languages, Bohnacker (2005, 2006) found that Swedish learners of German are able to produce non-subject-initial V2 declaratives early on, suggesting that V2 transfers from the L1 grammar. The present paper investigates Bohnacker's data, as well as new cross-sectional production data from L2ers at beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels and from native Swedish and German controls (Rosen 2006), with respect to the linguistic material in the clause-initial position of V2 declaratives. This position, the 'prefield,' anchors the clause in discourse; and while almost any type of element can occur there in principle, the paper pinpoints diverging tendencies in the way Swedish and German employ the prefield for structuring information and organising text. In naturalistic text corpora, the frequencies of certain types of prefield elements in Swedish differ substantially from those of German (e.g., subjects, fronted objects, pronominal and connective adverbs). To a higher degree than German, Swedish also tends to fill the prefield with thematic elements, i.e., given information, and phonologically light elements of no or low informational value (e.g., expletives). For the L2 German data, V2 syntax is found to be largely targetlike, but the information-structural patterns in the learners' V2 clauses resemble those of Swedish and not those of native German. The learners, at lower and higher proficiency levels, appear to have problems with the language-specific linguistic means that have an impact on information structuring, indicating L1 transfer in a domain other than pure syntax, especially for structures that are frequent in their L1 (e.g., subject-initial and expletive-initial clauses, and fronted object det 'it/that').

Published in

Proceedings of the 2nd Conference on Generative Approaches to Language Acquisition North America (GALANA)
edited by Alyona Belikova, Luisa Meroni, and Mari Umeda
Table of contents
Printed edition: $320.00