The purpose of the present study was to assess whether children with SLI are an appropriate L1 comparison group for L2 children in order to determine whether target-deviant structures in interlanguage are developmental or due to transfer from the L1. Children with SLI could make an appropriate comparison group for child L2 learners because, unlike very young L1 learners, children with SLI have both incomplete abilities in the target language as well as the same cognitive and mental maturity as their age-mates acquiring a L2. We examined the use of direct object clitics by English-L1/French-L2 learners and monolingual French-speaking children with SLI. Transfer from English might be expected for object pronominalization in French L2 interlanguage because the two languages have contrastive systems for object pronominalization. We examined use of direct object clitics in contexts in spontaneous speech where object pronominalization would be permissible. Results showed that both the L2 and SLI children supplied clitics in permissible contexts at the same rate of approximately 40%, which was lower than that of the monolingual, normally-developing French-speaking children who were either age-matched (seven years old) or language-matched according to MLUW (three years old) with the L2-SLI children. While there appeared to be some role of L1 transfer in the relative distribution of non-clitic object types in clitic-permissible context, the similarities between the SLI and L2 children suggest that target-deviant structures involving direct object pronominalization are a developmental phenomenon in child French across learner contexts. The results also suggest that for some target-deviant structures in acquisition, there are greater similarities between L2 and SLI children than between L2 and younger L1 children.
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
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