This study investigates the role of transfer in the second language (L2) acquisition of English by native speakers of Japanese. Japanese learners were tested on the English simple past, present progressive and past progressive. Two tasks were used: an interpretation task and a morphology preference task that measured how well learners use aspectual morphology. Results show that on the interpretation task, Japanese learners had difficulty with both the simple past and the past progressive. The authors argue that difficulty with the simple past reflects difficulty with telicity assignment in English. English and Japanese differ with respect to how telicity is marked in the verb phrase. Interestingly, Japanese learners showed target-like use of both the simple past and past progressive on the morphology preference task. These results provide further support for the idea that L2 learners acquire the morphological form before they acquire the full range of the semantics associated with the form (Bardovi-Harlig, 1992, 1995; Montrul and Slabakova, 2002).
Proceedings of the 7th Generative Approaches to Second Language Acquisition Conference (GASLA 2004)
edited by Laurent Dekydtspotter, Rex A. Sprouse, and Audrey Liljestrand
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