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LINGUIST List 21.2182

Tue May 11 2010

Diss: Syntax/Lang Acq: Nossalik: 'L2 Acquisition of Russian Aspect'

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        1.    Larissa Nossalik, L2 Acquisition of Russian Aspect

Message 1: L2 Acquisition of Russian Aspect
Date: 10-May-2010
From: Larissa Nossalik <larissa.nossalikmail.mcgill.ca>
Subject: L2 Acquisition of Russian Aspect
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Institution: McGill University
Program: Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2010

Author: Larissa Nossalik

Dissertation Title: L2 Acquisition of Russian Aspect

Linguistic Field(s): Language Acquisition

Subject Language(s): English (eng)
                            Russian (rus)

Dissertation Director:
Lydia White
Lisa Travis

Dissertation Abstract:

As reported in the pedagogical literature, second language (L2) acquisition
of Russian aspect is often unsuccessful. The goal of this dissertation is
to investigate what components of Russian aspect L2 learners with English
as a first language (L1) are able or unable to acquire and to establish
whether English speakers learning Russian can acquire native-like
competence with respect to the morphosyntax of Russian aspect. These issues
are examined in the framework of the Interface Hypothesis (Sorace & Filiaci
2006), which predicts that L2 learners of Russian should be able to
successfully acquire morphosyntactic structure related to aspect.

In the theoretical part of this dissertation, I develop a detailed
syntactic analysis of English and Russian aspect. In line with previous
research, I postulate two aspectual projections: the vP-internal inner
aspect projection (AspQP), which encodes telicity, and the vP-external
outer aspect projection (AspP), which encodes unboundedness. The main
difference between English and Russian AspQP is that in English this
projection is licensed indirectly (by the nominal predicate in the [Spec,
AspQP]), while in Russian it is licensed directly (by a verbal morpheme
that merges directly onto the AspQ°). The main difference concerning AspP
is that in English this projection is licensed by the phonologically overt
morpheme -ing, while in Russian it is licensed either by the phonologically
overt morpheme -va (which attaches to telic stems) or by the Ø-morpheme
(which attaches to atelic stems). Another difference between English and
Russian is that they shift the interpretation of the present tense forms of
'simple' non-stative verbs in two different ways. In English these verbs
receive a habitual interpretation, and, in Russian, a future tense
interpretation. In order to reach full mastery of Russian aspect, English
learners must acquire, among other things, the morphosyntactic properties,
which are different from English.

In the experimental part of this dissertation, I report on two studies that
tested the acquisition of aspect. Experiment 1 tested the performance of 41
L2 learners, at different proficiency levels, and 10 Russian controls using
a truth value judgment task. In Experiment 2, 40 L2 learners and 10 Russian
controls were tested on a grammaticality judgment task. The results reveal
that near-native speakers behave indistinguishably from Russian native
speakers, as do advanced subjects in a number of respects, supporting the
claim of the Interface Hypothesis that syntax is spared from persistent
non-convergence in L2 acquisition. Additional results show that while
purely morphosyntactic properties of Russian aspect are acquirable without
any apparent difficulties, L2 learners experience difficulties with
aspectual properties that involve the lexicon-syntax and syntax-pragmatics
interfaces. These findings support the claim of the Interface Hypothesis
that these two interfaces remain 'problematic' for L2 learners.

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