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Medial Wh- Words and Inversion Phenomena in Complex Questions: The Case of Canadian French Speakers Acquiring L2 English
Nikolay Slavkov
218-232 (complete paper or proceedings contents)


This paper attests the existence of medial wh- constructions (wh- scope marking and wh- copying) as a competing representation to target complex wh- questions in the English L2 grammar of Canadian French speakers. Medial wh- structures are of particular interest because they can be analysed as either long-distance movement of a single wh- phrase or as two separate local movements of two independent wh- phrases (i.e., sequential questions). The former syntactic configuration, broadly dubbed direct dependency, is unavailable in both the L1 and the L2; as such, the source of medial wh- in the interlanguage of this speaker population represents an acquisition paradox. On the other hand, the latter configuration, known as indirect dependency, can be available in both the L1 and the L2, and thus poses no real challenge to acquisition. The author reports on an empirical study specifically designed to test whether the learners posit a direct or an indirect dependency and shows evidence for the former. Thus, the medial wh- structures attested are indeed unavailable in the syntax of both the native grammar and the target input; interestingly, such constructions are licensed in natural languages, of which the speakers report no knowledge. After examining different processing and transfer possibilities, the author proposes that the data are best explained in terms of a UG-constrained L2 acquisition model.

Published in

Proceedings of the 9th Generative Approaches to Second Language Acquisition Conference (GASLA 2007)
edited by Roumyana Slabakova, Jason Rothman, Paula Kempchinsky, and Elena Gavruseva
Table of contents
Printed edition: $280.00