This paper applies a feature geometry for person and number agreement to developmental patterns in second language acquisition. It was predicted that the more highly-specified dependent nodes (1st, plural, finite) would successfully emerge later than their underspecified counterparts (3rd, singular, nonfinite). A corpus of interview data from two proficiency levels, including over 900 lexical main verbs, was analyzed for accuracy and error type. For person and finiteness, the prediction was supported: accuracy in 1st and finite emerged later than 3rd and nonfinite. Plural agreement remained somewhat problematic, even among higher-proficiency learners. For person, number, and finiteness, underspecified forms were favored as defaults, indicating systematic patterns in both variation and development.
Proceedings of the 11th Generative Approaches to Second Language Acquisition Conference (GASLA 2011)
edited by Julia Herschensohn and Darren Tanner
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