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That's the Meaning: Interpretation of Definite and Demonstrative Descriptions in L2-English
Tania Ionin, Soondo Baek, Eunah Kim, Heejeong Ko, and Ken Wexler
122-138 (complete paper or proceedings contents)


This study examines the interpretation of English definite and demonstrative descriptions by L2-English learners. According to Wolter (2006), both description types involve uniqueness/maximality: for definites, maximality is computed relative to the default discourse situation, while for demonstratives, maximality is computed relative to the immediately salient situation. The hypothesis presented in this paper is that L2-English learners whose L1 (Korean) has demonstratives but lacks definite articles compute maximality for the relative to the immediate situation, due to L1-transfer. The results suggest that while L2-learners may appear target-like on the surface, their analysis of definite articles is in fact different from that of native speakers. These findings provide novel information about L2-learners' interpretation of definites. The results are compared to those on L1-acquisition of definites and demonstratives (Modyanova and Wexler 2007). Differences between L1- and L2-learners point to the role of L1-transfer in the L2-interpretation of definites.

Published in

Selected Proceedings of the 4th Conference on Generative Approaches to Language Acquisition North America (GALANA 2010)
edited by Mihaela Pirvulescu, María Cristina Cuervo, Ana T. Pérez-Leroux, Jeffrey Steele, and Nelleke Strik
Table of contents
Printed edition: $320.00