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LINGUIST List 20.2534

Fri Jul 17 2009

Diss: Language Acquisition: Ivanov: 'Second Language Acquisition of...'

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        1.    Ivan Ivanov, Second Language Acquisition of Bulgarian Object Clitics: A test case for the Interface Hypothesis

Message 1: Second Language Acquisition of Bulgarian Object Clitics: A test case for the Interface Hypothesis
Date: 16-Jul-2009
From: Ivan Ivanov <i.ivanovyahoo.com>
Subject: Second Language Acquisition of Bulgarian Object Clitics: A test case for the Interface Hypothesis
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Institution: University of Iowa
Program: Department of Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2009

Author: Ivan Prodanov Ivanov

Dissertation Title: Second Language Acquisition of Bulgarian Object Clitics: A test case for the Interface Hypothesis

Linguistic Field(s): Language Acquisition

Subject Language(s): Bulgarian (bul)

Dissertation Director:
William D. Davies
Roumyana Slabakova
Jason Rothman
Paula K Kempchinsky
Elena Gavruseva

Dissertation Abstract:

The primary objective of this dissertation is to expand the testing ground
of the Interface Hypothesis (Sorace, 2006), which states that interface
properties involving the syntax and other cognitive domains (such as
discourse) may trigger residual optionality effects at the end-state. The
target of investigation were Bulgarian object clitics whose syntactic and
discursive properties provide a good testing ground for theoretical
approaches to second language acquisition. Ten advanced and 14 intermediate
L2 speakers of Bulgarian, as well as a control group of Bulgarian native
speakers, participated in the study. The test materials included a
proficiency test, a grammaticality judgment task to check syntactic
knowledge of clitics, and a pragmatic felicity task. The latter was aimed
at investigating the degree to which L2 learners of Bulgarian, with English
as their L1, had acquired a syntax-discourse interface property of
Bulgarian, namely the pragmatic function of clitic doubling. In Bulgarian,
clitic doubling serves as an overt marker of topicality and 'undoubled'
object topics are deemed infelicitous.

The results of the experiments in this dissertation present a challenge to
some theoretical approaches to second language acquisition, namely the
Interpretability Hypothesis (Tsimlpi and Dimitrakopoulou, 2007) and the
Interface Hypothesis (Sorace, 2006). The results showed that the
intermediate participants did not differentiate between the felicitous and
the infelicitous options in the pragmatic felicity task in a target-like
manner as their responses either did not exhibit statistically significant
difference or favored the response closest to the L1. However, the advanced
L2 learners of Bulgarian had successfully acquired the syntax of clitics as
well as the pragmatic meaning of clitic doubling in Bulgarian. They
displayed target-like convergence with respect to the syntactic properties
of Bulgarian object clitics and distinguished between the felicitous and
the infelicitous options in the pragmatic task in a native-like manner.

The study highlights the fact that successful learning at the
syntax-discourse interface cannot be excluded and a lot more research,
exploring as many interface conditions as possible, needs to be done in
order to validate the Interface Hypothesis as a legitimate constraint which
permanently hinders native-like performance.



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