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LINGUIST List 18.3685

Mon Dec 10 2007

Diss: Lang Acq: Miličević: 'The Acquisition of Reflexives and Recip...'

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        1.    Maja Milicevic, The Acquisition of Reflexives and Reciprocals in L2 Italian, Serbian and English

Message 1: The Acquisition of Reflexives and Reciprocals in L2 Italian, Serbian and English
Date: 08-Dec-2007
From: Maja Milicevic <mm510cam.ac.uk>
Subject: The Acquisition of Reflexives and Reciprocals in L2 Italian, Serbian and English
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Institution: University of Cambridge
Program: Research Centre for English and Applied Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2007

Author: Maja Miličević

Dissertation Title: The Acquisition of Reflexives and Reciprocals in L2 Italian, Serbian and English

Linguistic Field(s): Language Acquisition

Subject Language(s): English (eng)
                            Italian (ita)
                            Serbian (srp)

Dissertation Director:
Teresa Parodi

Dissertation Abstract:

This thesis deals with second language acquisition of reflexive and
reciprocal forms by Serbian and English learners of Italian, and by Italian
learners of Serbian and English. The focus is on the learners' knowledge of
argument structure and morphological rules pertaining to reflexives and
reciprocals associated with the direct object position in simple sentences
of the type 'Tom hates himself'/'Gary and Simon hate each other'.

Two main morphosyntactic types of reflexives and reciprocals are compared,
nominal strategies, which contain a transitive verb and an argumental
marker (a reflexive/reciprocal pronoun, as in 'Peter washed himself'), and
verbal strategies, analysed as involving an intransitive verb and possibly
a non-argumental morphological marker (a reflexive/reciprocal clitic in
Italian and Serbian, as in 'Silvia si e' vestita', 'Silvia dressed
herself'; a zero marker in English, as in 'Sylvia dressed'). The
theoretical framework adopted for their representation is that of
Lexical-Functional Grammar, based mainly on Alsina (1996). It is assumed
that nominal reflexives and reciprocals are formed via a binding operation
that takes place at the level of grammatical functions, while the two
arguments of verbal reflexives and reciprocals are bound in the argument
structure and mapped onto a single syntactic role.

In addition, nominal and verbal strategies are examined from the point of
view of their distribution with different verbs, in the light of the fact
that the phonologically lighter verbal strategies tend to be used with the
same set of verbs crosslinguistically. The approach adopted with respect to
this issue rests on the assumption that the preference for a specific
strategy with any given verb depends directly on the frequency of the
verb's reflexive or reciprocal use, compared to its use with disjoint
pronominal objects (Haspelmath 2005).

Given this theoretical background, the thesis looks at the factors behind
the acquisition of different aspects of reflexive/reciprocal formation in a
second language. It examines whether the knowledge of argument structure
alternations and the morphological marking associated with them are
transferred from the learners' first language, acquired in a similar
fashion as in L1 acquisition, or dependent primarily on the L2 input. The
main questions through which this is assessed are whether the learners know
which verbs can serve as input for reflexive/reciprocal formation in the
L2, and whether they apply the appropriate morphological marking to the L2

Findings are reported from an acceptability judgement task and from the
corpora of Italian, Serbian and English which indicate that morphological
marking is highly prone to direct transfer, but also subject to the
influence of the L2 input, while the acquisition of argument structure
rules appears to be guided by some possibly innate default mechanisms. Both
domains are under the influence of an additional factor, the general
properties of the L1 and the L2, which are in constant interaction with L1
transfer, default mechanisms and L2 input. It is therefore argued for a
view of second language acquisition based on modularity of influences
(Montrul 1997), in which different domains and factors are looked at
jointly rather than in isolation.

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