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Bookmark and Share Paper 1039

The Certain Uses of the in L2-English
Tania Ionin and Ken Wexler
150-160 (complete paper or proceedings contents)


This paper investigates the interpretation of English articles among adult Russian-speaking learners of English. Two studies (written translation and written elicitation) examine L2-English article use in light of two semantic distinctions: the de re / de dicto distinction and the referential / quantificational distinction (see Fodor and Sag 1982). It is shown that L2-English article use reflects the referentiality distinction rather than the de re / de dicto distinction: L2-English learners overuse the in referential indefinite contexts, in which the speaker but not the hearer has knowledge of the referent, while correctly using a with quantificational indefinites and the with definites. A parameter-based explanation of this finding is proposed, according to which L2-learners fluctuate between dividing the article spectrum based on definiteness (the parameter setting appropriate for English) and dividing the article spectrum based on referentiality (the setting exemplified in some other languages, e.g., Samoan; see Lyons 1999).

Published in

Proceedings of the 6th Generative Approaches to Second Language Acquisition Conference (GASLA 2002): L2 Links
edited by Juana M. Liceras, Helmut Zobl, and Helen Goodluck
Table of contents
Printed edition: $340.00