On interaction of first-language transfer and universal grammar in adult second language acquisition: WH-movement in L1-Japanese/L2-English interlanguage

Date of Completion

January 2003


Education, Language and Literature|Language, Linguistics|Education, Adult and Continuing




The objective of this study is to investigate the nature of adult second language (L2) grammars at an early developmental stage, focusing on the question how the properties of the native language (L1) and other options of Universal Grammar (UG, Chomsky 1975, 1986) interact there. L1-Japanese adults who were learning English as an L2 were tested using grammaticality judgment tasks and elicited production tasks. ^ In Chapter 1, we overview how UG accounts for the logical problem of language acquisition in general. In Chapter 2, we review previous studies in the field of adult L2 acquisition in the framework of generative grammar. ^ Chapters 3 and 4 report the data and analyses of the experiments. The targets in Chapter 3 involve the Left Branch Condition (Ross 1967), in which English and Japanese deviate. Hence it is the place where we can see whether/how L1 transfer affects the interlanguage grammars. The results of the experiments show that L1 transfer exists at language-specific phrase structure level, while UG principles function even in the transitional representations of the adults' grammars. In Chapter 4, various types of WH-movement are taken into consideration as possible parameter settings of adult interlanguage grammars. We focus on the interaction of L1 and L2 values of the characteristics of functional category and lexical items. The results of the experiments show that the interaction of (a) the value of functional category reset to the target L2, and (b) the L1 transfer at a language-specific characteristics of lexical items generate a non-L1/non-L2 grammar of a natural, i.e., UG-constrained language. ^ In Chapter 5, we conclude that the data obtained in this study support the claim that adult L2 acquisition moves on in accordance with parameter resetting, and even its transition is UG-constrained. This, in turn, suggests that the Strong Continuity Hypothesis holds in adult L2 acquisition. ^