LINGUIST List 25.4892

Wed Dec 03 2014

Diss: Russian; Language Acquisition, Syntax: Savchenko: 'Second Language Acquisition of Russian Applicative Experiencers'

Editor for this issue: Danuta Allen <>

Date: 02-Dec-2014
From: Ulyana Savchenko <>
Subject: Second Language Acquisition of Russian Applicative Experiencers
E-mail this message to a friend

Institution: University of Toronto
Program: Department of Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2014

Author: Ulyana Savchenko

Dissertation Title: Second Language Acquisition of Russian Applicative Experiencers

Dissertation URL:

Linguistic Field(s): Language Acquisition

Subject Language(s): Russian (rus)

Dissertation Director:
Alexei Kochetov
Yves Roberge
Ronald Smyth

Dissertation Abstract:

This thesis explores the topic of second language (L2) acquisition of Russian applicative experiencers by English and Spanish learners. Applicative experiencers appear with impersonal constructions based on psychological (psych) or activity predicates in Russian. If the verb surfaces in its active form, the nominative argument merges as an experiencer with psych verbs or an agent with activity verbs; however, if the verb surfaces in its impersonal (non-active) form, this gives rise to a dative experiencer with both types of verbs, which renders these structures interpretationally intricate. These experiencers are proposed to be arguments of a Super High Applicative head. Applicative experiencers are thus argued to manifest yet another type of Russian applicative argument in addition to other previously identified applicatives (Markman 2007). A feature-based approach is then taken to delineate the differences between Russian applicative experiencers and their equivalents in English and Spanish, the two background languages of the participants in our studies. Acquisition is also proposed to be understood based on features, in particular on feature re/assembly, as advanced by Lardiere (2009) in her Feature Reassembly Approach (FRA). According to FRA, L2 learners contrast feature configurations from their native grammars with those of the L2, and analyze them by selecting, assembling and mapping the new feature configurations onto appropriate L2 items.
Thirteen advanced English learners, twenty-three advanced Spanish learners, and a control group of native Russian speakers completed Grammaticality Judgement and Semantic Judgement tasks. The results support featural L2 learning; however, the results also show that English learners had more difficulties than Spanish learners in interpreting the target structures, which goes against certain predictions of the FRA. The overall finding suggests that differences in L2 acquisition patterns are modulated by the presence or absence of relevant features in the L1.

Page Updated: 03-Dec-2014