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Finiteness and Verb Placement in German: A Challenge for Early Second Language Learners?
Magda Wojtecka, Rabea Schwarze, Angela Grimm, and Petra Schulz
211-221 (complete paper or proceedings contents)


Focusing on matrix clauses, this study investigated the acquisition of verb placement and finiteness in typically developing eL2-learners of German with an age of onset (AoA) between 2;0 and 4;0. First studies on eL2 acquisition in German suggest that eL2-learners do not resort to nonfinite verbs in verb second position (V2) (Prévost, 2003; Rothweiler 2006; Tracy and Thoma 2009). Prévost (2003) reported that infinitival forms were only produced in verb final (Vf) position, while bare forms were restricted to V2 position. In line with the Missing Surface Inflection Hypothesis (MSIH) by Haznedar and Schwarz (1997), Prévost argued that while infinitival forms are nonfinite, bare forms in V2 position are covertly marked for finiteness. The present study investigated whether the complementary distribution of bare and infinitival forms found by Prévost (2003) can be substantiated by studying a larger sample of eL2-learners of German (n = 25) and by using the elicited speech production task from the language test LiSe-DaZ (Schulz and Tracy, 2011). Infinitival forms appeared almost exclusively in Vf position, indicating that eL2-children have knowledge of the nonfinite properties of these verb forms. In the V2 position eL2-children mostly produced correctly inflected verb forms and some bare forms; infinitival and substitution errors were rare. These results suggest that eL2-children obey the ban of nonfinite V2. It is claimed that at age 3;9 typically developing eL2-children do not have difficulties with the acquisition of finiteness itself, but may have difficulty with its overt morphological marking, in line with the MSIH.

Published in

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
Table of contents
Printed edition: $290.00