This study investigates how knowledge of clitic climbing develops in L2 European Portuguese—both knowledge of the functional properties of clitics (syntactic knowledge) and knowledge of which verbs allow restructuring and what the structural configuration associated with each individual verb is (syntactic/lexical knowledge). Departing from the assumptions that all functional categories are available from the early stages of the acquisition process (full access) and that interface properties are subject to developmental delays at more advanced stages (Interface Hypothesis; e.g. Sorace and Filiaci, 2006), it is predicted that, although clitic climbing emerges early, the knowledge of which verbs trigger it may be delayed and subject to L1 influence. We conducted a study with elementary and intermediate learners of European Portuguese, L1 speakers of Spanish (which has clitic climbing) and German (which does not), using an acceptability judgement task. The hypothesis that clitic climbing emerges early is supported by the findings for the elementary groups, which show no differences in learners' preference for sentences without climbing over those with climbing. Moreover, a comparison between the results of the elementary groups and those of the intermediate groups confirms the hypothesis regarding the effect of the L1 on the development of lexical knowledge. However, the fact that the Spanish intermediate learners exhibit almost targetlike behaviour in this domain suggests that, at least for some L1 groups, the development of certain properties at the syntax/lexicon interface is not necessarily delayed, contrary to the predictions of the Interface Hypothesis.
Proceedings of the 12th Generative Approaches to Second Language Acquisition Conference (GASLA 2013)
edited by Jennifer Cabrelli Amaro, Tiffany Judy, and Diego Pascual y Cabo
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