It has been suggested that there is a Given-before-New principle that operates in native adult speech such that given/old information is more likely than new information to occupy an earlier position in a sentence (Arnold et al., 2000; Bock and Irwin, 1980; Bock and Warren, 1985; Bresnan et al., 2007; Clark and Haviland, 1977; inter alia). The present experimental study investigates whether adult L2 learners (L2ers) who have knowledge of the Given-before-New principle in their L1 (Korean) automatically have knowledge of it in their L2 (English), focusing on the English dative alternation (e.g., John gave the book to somebody [NP PP] vs. John gave somebody the book [NP NP]). Results from novel Oral Contextualized Preference Tasks indicate that adult native speakers prefer the given-before-new order in both the given-theme context and the given-recipient context, thereby providing evidence that they overwhelmingly comply with the Given-before-New principle. Adult L2ers, on the other hand, show a strong preference for the given-before-new order in the [NP PP] given-theme context but not in the [NP NP] given-recipient context. The L2 results are discussed in light of corresponding phenomena in the L1 (i.e., Korean dative constructions), input frequency, and a syntactic bias for the [NP PP] order. An implicational scale is provided to characterize the path that L1-Korean L2ers follow in applying the Given-before-New principle in the English dative alternation.
Proceedings of the 11th Generative Approaches to Second Language Acquisition Conference (GASLA 2011)
edited by Julia Herschensohn and Darren Tanner
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