This paper explores the phenomenon of null direct objects, or 'object drop,' among second language learners of Spanish. Null objects with definite reference present an intriguing problem because they cannot be explained by transfer from the learners' L1 (English) or by relying on positive evidence from the L2 input. The present study explores the frequency and distribution of null objects in L2 Spanish by comparing data from two different elicitation methods: oral production and metalinguistic judgments of grammaticality. The oral narratives produced by learners of different proficiency levels suggest that null objects, although relatively rare in spontaneous production, occur in pragmatically appropriate contexts, that is, when the referent is easily recoverable from preceding discourse. The results of the grammaticality judgment task indicate that beginning level learners accept ungrammatical sentences with null objects at high rates, while more proficient learners categorically reject them. The findings are discussed in relation to previous findings from L2 contexts and contact varieties of Spanish.
Selected Proceedings of the 9th Hispanic Linguistics Symposium
edited by Nuria Sagarra and Almeida Jacqueline Toribio
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