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Revitalizing Endangered Languages

Edited by Justyna Olko & Julia Sallabank

Revitalizing Endangered Languages "This guidebook provides ideas and strategies, as well as some background, to help with the effective revitalization of endangered languages. It covers a broad scope of themes including effective planning, benefits, wellbeing, economic aspects, attitudes and ideologies."

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Dissertation Information

Title: Universal Grammar and Focus Constraints: The acquisition of pronouns and word order in non-native Spanish Add Dissertation
Author: Cristóbal Lozano Update Dissertation
Email: click here to access email
Institution: University of Essex, BA in English Language & Linguistics Schemes
Completed in: 2003
Linguistic Subfield(s): Language Acquisition;
Subject Language(s): English
Director(s): Roger Hawkins

Abstract: A recent controversy in second language acquisition research concerns the
extent to which adult non-native intuitions differ from adult native
intuitions at advanced and near-native levels of competence (end-states).
Two (apparently) contradictory findings pervade the L2 literature: while
some studies reveal that learners can indeed achieve native-like
intuitions, other findings show that they display near-native and optional
intuitions. In short, there is a debate about whether adult non-native
interlanguage grammars converge with (or diverge from) adult native grammars.

The first type of studies (convergence) focuses on constructions that are
claimed to be part of the innate principles of Universal Grammar (UG),
which typically represent a poverty-of-the-stimulus (POS) phenomenon. The
second type (divergence) normally focuses on parameterisable functional
features where the L1 and L2 values differ.

In this study I test whether this is the expected trend in advanced
non-native Spanish acquisition, i.e., that learners show convergent
knowledge where UG principles are involved, but divergent knowledge where
parametric values differ between the native and the target language.

In particular, I investigate the distribution of overt and null pronominal
subjects in Spanish, which is constrained by a principle of UG, the Overt
Pronoun Constraint (OPC), and by a language-specific constraint, the
Contrastive Focus Constraint (CFC). Similarly, the distribution of
Subject-Verb (SV) and Verb-Subject (VS) word order is constrained by two
principles of UG, namely, the Unaccusative Hypothesis (UH) and the
Uniformity of Theta Assignment Hypothesis (UTAH), and by a
language-specific constraint, presentational focus.

Results from two experiments (pronominal distribution and word order
distribution) reveal that English learners of L2 Spanish and Greek learners
of L3 Spanish show convergent (native-like) intuitions with respect to the
principles of UG (OPC and UH/UTAH), while showing divergent (near-native
and optional) intuitions in cases where the strength of the parameterisable
focus head differs between their L1 and their L2/L3 Spanish (contrastive
and presentational focus environments).