This paper examines the acquisition of a Chinese telic structure -- the ba-construction -- by English and Japanese speakers. The telic-atelic distinction is a focus in current discussion on the interaction of semantics of events with syntactic structures. According to Ritter and Rosen's recently proposed event-structure typology of languages (2000), Chinese and English belong to Delimitation Languages, languages sensitive to the termination of events, while Japanese is an Initiation Language, a language sensitive to the initiation of events. The focus of this study is on how typological difference in event structure would affect L2 telicity acquisition. The data source of the study is a 2,000,000-word L2 Chinese written corpus. The findings show that the two groups of learners behave very similarly. Both groups are clearly aware of the telicity aspectual constraint on the ba structure and have shown an understanding of the incompatibility of indefinite ba NP with the ba structure. The results reflect a natural distinction between telic and atelic event types by learners, a distinction well observed in both L1 and L2 aspect marking.
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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