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L2 Acquisition of Focus Constructions in European Portuguese and the L2 Status of the Syntax-Discourse Interface
Maria N. Fruit
41-50 (complete paper or proceedings contents)


In European Portuguese (EP), VOS with object scrambling is used for subject focus constructions, and VSO with heavy subject stress marks multiple foci. English does not permit inversion structures; only prosodic operations mark focus. Thus, English and EP differ in the syntactic and prosodic tools used for focus marking at the interface with discourse. This study investigated the L2 acquisition of EP focus by beginner, intermediate, advanced, and near-native English learners (n=14). A Grammaticality Judgment task, Truth-value Judgment task, and Discourse Interpretation task were administered to determine whether the narrow syntax or information processing causes divergence from native-like interpretations. Results indicated that, despite higher-level proficiency and syntactic knowledge, nearly all learners have not acquired EP focus-marking preferences, instead demonstrating complete recourse to their L1 strategy or preferring it over EP inversion. Discussion centers on individual results which bear upon the proposal that even with syntactic knowledge, L2ers experience persistent difficulty with interpretable features, existent at the syntax-discourse interface.

Published in

Proceedings of the 8th Generative Approaches to Second Language Acquisition Conference (GASLA 2006): The Banff Conference
edited by Mary Grantham O'Brien, Christine Shea, and John Archibald
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Printed edition: $220.00