Much work has focused on the intractable difficulties that second language (L2) learners have with the production of functional morphology. Omission of inflectional morphology and articles has been argued to reveal syntactic, semantic, discourse/pragmatic or mapping/access difficulties. In this paper, it is shown that, aside from omission, other types of errors are decidedly phonological (e.g. stressing of articles, or variable suppliance of inflection depending on the prosodic shape of the stem to which it attaches). The Prosodic Transfer Hypothesis (PTH) has been proposed to capture this range of behaviour: difficulties that learners have with the production of function words and inflectional morphology stem from prosodic constraints that are transferred from the L1 grammar (Goad, White, and Steele 2003). Given the possibility that a phonological explanation holds for omission, this paper examines some confounding factors that arise for L2ers when learning inflection in an English-type language, factors that one should be mindful of in designing experiments that aim to probe L2ers' syntactic knowledge of inflection. It is shown that perceptual factors as well as L1 constraints on production can lead to widespread omission because of the segmental shape of English inflection, the types of syllable complexity that these morphemes attach to, and the way that these morphemes are organized into higher prosodic structure. The paper then turns to article production by Turkish-speaking learners of English to examine the effects of prosodic transfer in greater detail. It is argued that, as a consequence of the PTH, functional material may be variably produced, depending on whether or not a DP contains an adjective, or produced in non-target (stressed) fashion if the necessary prosodic representations are not available in the L1 grammar. It is shown that the type of non-target output that occurs follows from the particular prosodic representation that is transferred from the L1 grammar which, in turn, is tied to the interlanguage analysis of articles as bound or free.
Proceedings of the 11th Generative Approaches to Second Language Acquisition Conference (GASLA 2011)
edited by Julia Herschensohn and Darren Tanner
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