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Constructions in child second language acquisition: exploring the role of first language and usage Open Access


Other title
child SLA
L1 transfer
usage-based approach
auxiliary verbs
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Zdorenko, Tatiana
Supervisor and department
Paradis, Johanne (Linguistics)
Examining committee member and department
Nicoladis, Elena (Psychology)
Newman, John (Linguistics)
Rowland, Caroline (Linguistics, University of Liverpool)
Tessier, Anne-Michelle (Linguistics)
Department of Linguistics

Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
This thesis examined the factors of L1, input frequency and emergent productivity in child L2 acquisition. This thesis is the first study to look at the interplay of L1 and usage factors in children learning a L2. The focus of the thesis was an investigation of these factors in the acquisition of article and auxiliary systems of English, which have been proven to be problematic areas for both L1 and L2 learners. While accounts of L1 transfer in L2 are better developed in generative theory, the roles of input frequency and emergent productivity are better developed in constructivist theory. The thesis assessed these two approaches against the data from L2 children from various L1 backgrounds. The children’s accuracy and error patterns with articles and auxiliaries were investigated. The main findings were as follows. L1 typology facilitated the acquisition of the structure of the NP and VP, but it only extended as far as the awareness of the presence of the functional morpheme (article or auxiliary). L1 transfer effects were observed only in the first 1.5 years of acquisition, which could be due to the unstable L1 knowledge in child L2 learners. The use of articles and auxiliaries was also influenced by their input frequencies and distribution, as more frequent forms were supplied more accurately and were substituted for less frequent forms. Different forms of articles and auxiliaries emerged separately and followed different paths of development. It was argued that they were acquired piecemeal and that productivity with these forms emerged gradually. It was concluded that constructionist theories were better supported by the data, since the findings on input frequency and productivity were not compatible with the generative approach, and L1 transfer was incorporated into the constructionist approach to account for the findings. It was argued that by the onset of acquisition, child L2 learners had established constructions in their L1 that were abstract enough to be transferred to L2 and did not rely on lexically specific information. As all children learned specific morphological forms of L2 piecemeal, in doing so they demonstrated input effects that held across all L1 backgrounds.
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of these terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
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File title: Dissertation_TZdorenko_Jan9
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