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Transfer Effects in the Production of Non-Referential Verb Phrases by Heritage Speakers of Chinese
Lyn Shan Tieu
270-281 (complete paper or proceedings contents)


This study looks at the effects of the L2 on the L1 by comparing two language dominance groups in their production of four possible non-referential verb constructions, i.e., their use of verbs that take non-referential, non-specific direct object complements. The four constructions are the verb copying construction, the null object construction, the object fronting construction, and the ungrammatical double-complement construction. The authors look at data from five English-dominant heritage speakers of Mandarin Chinese, who in theory have access to the non-referential verb constructions of English as well as those of Chinese, and compare them to data from twenty-two native speaker controls. The authors find that Chinese-dominant native speakers can provide a baseline for how non-referential verb constructions are produced in Chinese; consistent with the theoretical predictions, they produce the three grammatical constructions. Heritage speakers on the other hand appear to differ from the native speakers as a result of their L2 dominance. In producing non-referential verb constructions containing generic bare nouns and postverbal adverbial phrases, they appear to appeal to the English thematic hierarchy and to reanalyze the generic bare noun as a regular definite NP that can occupy the Specifier of VP. These transfer effects result in the production of only two of the four possible constructions (the null object construction and the double-complement construction, which are the only two available in English). Finally, this paper also raises issues and questions related to heritage acquisition, namely the possibility of language attrition or loss, incomplete acquisition, and language change.

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