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Information Structure and Dative Word Order in Adult L2 Learners
Kyae-Sung Park
101-109 (complete paper or proceedings contents)


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.

Published in

Proceedings of the 11th Generative Approaches to Second Language Acquisition Conference (GASLA 2011)
edited by Julia Herschensohn and Darren Tanner
Table of contents
Printed edition: $240.00