This paper investigates the production of L2 English articles by speakers of Mandarin, a language which lacks articles. The focus is on whether or not L2ers are sensitive to subtle semantic restrictions on article production. The restriction under consideration is the Definiteness Effect (DE), which prohibits definite NPs in existential there-insertion contexts (e.g., There seems to be a/*the fly in my soup). 15 adult Mandarin-speaking learners of English, of intermediate proficiency, described a sequence of pictures telling a story. There were a number of non-native productions overall, including article omission in obligatory contexts and stressing of articles in contexts where this was inappropriate; these are attributed to prosodic transfer from the L1. However, despite these non-native productions, L2ers performed in a native-like manner as far as the DE was concerned. When they produced existential there-insertion, NPs almost invariably involved appropriate indefinite articles or weak determiners rather than definite articles or strong determiners. In conclusion, despite the absence of an article system realizing definiteness in the L1, and despite a range of errors in production of articles, L2ers are very successful in acquiring subtle effects of definiteness in the L2.
Proceedings of the 9th Generative Approaches to Second Language Acquisition Conference (GASLA 2007)
edited by Roumyana Slabakova, Jason Rothman, Paula Kempchinsky, and Elena Gavruseva
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