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LINGUIST List 22.3597

Thu Sep 15 2011

Diss: Lang Acq/Syntax: Prentza: 'Feature Interpretability in ...'

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        1.     Alexandra Prentza , Feature Interpretability in Second Language Acqusition: Evidence from the Null Subject Parameter in the Greek/English interlanguage

Message 1: Feature Interpretability in Second Language Acqusition: Evidence from the Null Subject Parameter in the Greek/English interlanguage
Date: 10-Sep-2011
From: Alexandra Prentza <prentzalgmail.com>
Subject: Feature Interpretability in Second Language Acqusition: Evidence from the Null Subject Parameter in the Greek/English interlanguage
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Institution: Aristotle University of Thessaloniki
Program: Department of Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2010

Author: Alexandra Prentza

Dissertation Title: Feature Interpretability in Second Language Acqusition: Evidence from the Null Subject Parameter in the Greek/English interlanguage

Linguistic Field(s): Language Acquisition
                            Syntax

Subject Language(s): English (eng)
                            Greek, Modern (ell)

Dissertation Director:
Lanthi-Maria Tsimpli
Angeliki Psaltou-Joycey
Anna Roussou

Dissertation Abstract:

The aim of this dissertation is to evaluate the role of interpretable and
uninterpretable features in Second Language Acquisition targeting the Null
Subject Parameter in the Greek/English interlanguage. This study allowed us
to explore whether the optionality characterising L2 acquisition is real or
apparent. To this end, LF-uninterpretable features involved in null,
postverbal and that-t structures were investigated and the compensatory
role of features interpretable both at LF and PF was examined. The
semantically interpretable features studied were Referentiality and
Definiteness on subjects, Predicate Type, as well as Animacy and
Discourse-linking on wh-pronouns. On the other hand, Clausal Length and the
PF constraint for No-Verb-Initial English clauses comprised the
morphophonologically interpretable feature set.

Results from one judgement and two production English tasks, as well as
from a Greek anaphora resolution test, suggested that uninterpretable
formal features cause learnability problems even at advanced stages of
proficiency, the result being that the abstract properties of subject-verb
agreement in Greek seem to be transferred in the Greek/English
interlanguage. Crucially though, the effects of no-parameter resetting
appear to be scattered in the sense that expletive null subject structures
and existential postverbal structures (i.e. 'There'-VS) are more permeable
than referential null subject and postverbal subject permutations
respectively. With respect to interpretable features, although different
learner groups were found to exhibit distinct sensitivity to them, it was
revealed that they have an alleviating role improving learner
target-deviant performance in a superficial, yet systematic way. However,
no strong conclusions can be drawn about the (non)supportive role of
Animacy and Discourse-linking, since the activation of these features seems
to require the presence of a (resumptive) pronoun in the subject extraction
site, which was not examined by the current thesis.

On the whole, this dissertation supports that the variability attested in
L2 acquisition is constrained and stems from the vulnerability of formal
uninterpretable features as opposed to the availability of the
interpretable ones, along the lines of the Interpretability Hypothesis
(Tsimpli, 2003, Tsimpli and Dimitrakopoulou, 2007, Tsimpli and
Mastropavlou, 2007).




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