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L1 Transfer versus Computational Complexity in Adult L2 French: Evidence from a Comparison with Deaf L1 French Learners
Maureen Scheidnes, Laurice Tuller, and Hélène Delage
241-252 (complete paper or proceedings contents)


Researchers in second language acquisition have long debated the role of L1 transfer in L2 acquisition. Moreover, research on typical and atypical acquisition converges on the role of computational complexity in developing grammars. The goal of the study was to determine whether complexity or L1 transfer had a stronger influence on the performance of a group of 19 adult L2 learners of French (L1 English). They were tested on four French constructions (relative clauses, passives, relative order of tensed V and negative adverb, and gender and number agreement on object pronouns). These constructions were evaluated using a written grammaticality judgment task. L2 performance was compared to that of a group of 51 L1 French adolescents with moderate-to-profound hearing loss. The results showed that the role of computational complexity is stronger than the role of L1 transfer in the interlanguage of the L2 subjects. Moreover, and strikingly, the L2 group resembled the deaf L1 French adolescents. Both of these groups scored highest in negative adverb placement and lowest for relative clauses. It will be argued that this result lends further support to the hypothesis that the notion of computational complexity is pertinent for all types of atypical language acquisition.

Published in

Proceedings of the 3rd Conference on Generative Approaches to Language Acquisition North America (GALANA 2008)
edited by Jean Crawford, Koichi Otaki, and Masahiko Takahashi
Table of contents
Printed edition: $320.00