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LINGUIST List 18.228

Mon Jan 22 2007

Diss: Lang Acquisition/Morphology: McCarthy: 'Morphological Variabi...'

Editor for this issue: Hannah Morales <hannahlinguistlist.org>

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        1.    Corrine McCarthy, Morphological Variability in Second Language Spanish

Message 1: Morphological Variability in Second Language Spanish
Date: 22-Jan-2007
From: Corrine McCarthy <corrine_mccarthyyahoo.com>
Subject: Morphological Variability in Second Language Spanish

Institution: McGill University
Program: Department of Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2007

Author: Corrine McCarthy

Dissertation Title: Morphological Variability in Second Language Spanish

Linguistic Field(s): Language Acquisition

Subject Language(s): Spanish (spa)

Dissertation Director:
Lydia White

Dissertation Abstract:

Research on morphological variability in second language (L2) acquisition
has focused on the syntactic consequences of variability: that is, whether
or not morphological variability entails underlying syntactic deficits. The
interrelationship between morphological features in their own right has
been largely ignored. This thesis addresses the representation of L2
features by investigating the use of default morphology—the outcome of
systematic substitution errors employed by speakers of L2 Spanish. It is
hypothesized that underspecified features act as defaults; by assumption,
those features that are unmarked are underspecified.

Evidence to support this hypothesis comes from two sets of experiments
conducted on intermediate- and advanced-proficiency L2 Spanish speakers (L1
English). The first set of experiments addresses verbal morphology, and
consists of a spontaneous production experiment on person, number, tense,
and finiteness, and a comprehension task on person and number. The second
set of experiments addresses gender and number in nominal morphology, and
consists of a spontaneous production experiment on determiners, an elicited
production experiment on clitics and adjectives, and a picture-selection
task on the comprehension of clitics. Across tasks and across verbal and
nominal domains, errors involve the systematic substitution of
underspecified morphology. The observation that morphological variability
extends to comprehension, and is qualitatively similar to the variability
found in production, counters the suggestion that variability is strictly a
product of mere performance limitations on production. Finally, the
systematicity of substitution errors suggests that the natural classes of
features such as gender, number, tense, and person are acquirable in an L2,
regardless of whether or not these features have been instantiated in the
native language.

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