This study examines the interpretation of constituent wh-questions and relative clauses in advanced L2 English by learners whose L1 is German. German and English share identical surface word order patterns in a range of interrogative and relative clauses, but with distinct semantic interpretations derived from different syntactic representations. Non-target patterns of interpretation show that the learners continue optionally to parse English input with the L1 syntax at higher levels of proficiency. This is analysed as an instance of Variational Learning (Yang 2002), whereby the L1 grammar is accessed to parse L2 input where possible. The L1 syntactic representation thus continues to be available at higher proficiency levels to parse input strings which are compatible with the L1 representation, giving rise to non-target parses and interpretation in L1 German-L2 English.
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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