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

  • Author / Creator
    Zdorenko, Tatiana
  • 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.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
  • Language
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
  • Department
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Newman, John (Linguistics)
    • Nicoladis, Elena (Psychology)
    • Tessier, Anne-Michelle (Linguistics)
    • Rowland, Caroline (Linguistics, University of Liverpool)