The present study deals with second language acquisition of wh-in-situ by English-speaking learners of Japanese. The focus of this paper is a scope-marking strategy used in Japanese which is not found in English wh-constructions. Nishigauchi (1990) noted that the scope of wh-phrases in-situ is determined by the position of the Q(uestion)-particle -ka. In English, on the other hand, the scope of wh-phrases is determined by the position of wh-phrases themselves, although wh-in-situ is also allowed in a limited number of constructions. The main concern of this paper is whether learners transfer their first language (L1) knowledge of wh-in-situ, and whether they can achieve target-like interpretations, even though the evidence they are exposed to underdetermines the target-like interpretations. The results from an experiment suggest that, at the low-intermediate level, learners transfer the wh-in-situ from their L1. At the high-intermediate and advanced levels, learners seem to go beyond L1 transfer; however, the majority of learners seem to have difficulties achieving the target-like interpretation. It is proposed that the problem lies in their difficulties integrating a semantic property (an operator-variable relation) with their newly acquired L2 syntax. The problem, however, disappears at the near-native level, when they are able to integrate the semantic property with the L2 syntax.
Proceedings of the 2nd Conference on Generative Approaches to Language Acquisition North America (GALANA)
edited by Alyona Belikova, Luisa Meroni, and Mari Umeda
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