Skip to main content
×
×
Home

A bidirectional study on the acquisition of plural noun phrase interpretation in English and Spanish

  • TANIA IONIN (a1), SILVINA MONTRUL (a1) and MÓNICA CRIVOS (a2)
Abstract

This paper investigates how learners interpret definite plural noun phrases (e.g., the tigers) and bare (article-less) plural noun phrases (e.g., tigers) in their second language. Whereas Spanish allows definite plurals to have both generic and specific readings, English requires definite plurals to have specific, nongeneric readings. Generic readings in English are expressed with bare plurals, which are ungrammatical in Spanish in preverbal subject position. Two studies were conducted in order to investigate the role of first language transfer in this domain in both English → Spanish and Spanish → English directions. Study 1 used a meaning-focused task to probe learners’ interpretation of definite plural nour phrases, whereas Study 2 used a form-focused task to examine learners’ judgments of the acceptability of definite and bare plurals in generic versus specific contexts. First language transfer was attested in both directions, at lower proficiency levels, whereas more targetlike performance was attested at higher proficiency levels. Furthermore, learners were found to be more successful in learning about the (un)grammaticality of bare plurals in the target language than in assigning the target interpretation to definite versus bare plurals. This finding is shown to be consistent with other studies’ findings of plural noun phrase interpretation in monolingual and bilingual children.

Copyright
Corresponding author
ADDRESS FOR CORRESPONDENCE Tania Ionin, University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, Department of Linguistics, FLB 4080, MC-168, 707 S. Mathews Ave., Urbana, IL 61801. E-mail: tionin@illinois.edu
References
Hide All
Alonso Raya, R., Castañeda, A., Martínez Gila, P., Miquel López, L., Ortega Olivares, J., & Ruiz Campillo, J. P. (2008). Gramática básica del estudiante de español. New York: Prentice Hall.
Berwick, R. C. (1985). The acquisition of syntactic knowledge. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Chierchia, G. (1998). Reference to kinds across languages. Natural Language Semantics, 6, 339405.
Cunningham, S., & Moor, P. (2007). Cutting edge: Intermediate. New York: Longman.
Dayal, V. (2004). Number marking and (in)definiteness in kind terms. Linguistics and Philosophy, 27, 393450.
Dechert, H., & Raupach, M. (Eds.). (1989). Transfer in language production. Norwood, NJ: Ablex.
Ellis, N. C. (2006). Selective attention and transfer phenomena in L2 acquisition: Contingency, cue competition, salience, interference, overshadowing, blocking, and perceptual learning. Applied Linguistics, 27, 164194.
Fodor, J. D., & Sakas, W. G. (2005). The Subset Principle in syntax: Costs of compliance. Journal of Linguistics, 41, 513569.
Gabriele, A. (2009). Transfer and transition in the SLA of aspect. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 31, 371402.
Gass, S., & Selinker, L. (Eds.). (1992). Language transfer in language learning. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Gelman, S., & Raman, L. (2003). Preschool children use linguistic form class and pragmatic cues to interpret generics. Child Development, 74, 308325.
Grüter, T., Lieberman, M., & Gualmini, A. (2010). Acquisition the scope of disjunction and negation in L2: A bidirectional study of learners of Japanese and English. Language Acquisition, 17, 127154.
Hawkins, R. (2001). Second language syntax: A generative introduction. Oxford: Blackwell.
Huebner, T. (1983). A longitudinal analysis of the acquisition of English. Ann Arbor, MI: Karoma.
Iguina, Z., & Dozier, E. (1998). Manual de gramática. Florence, KY: Heinle.
Inagaki, S. (2001). Motion verbs with goal PPs in the L2 acquisition of English and Japanese. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 23, 153170.
Ionin, T., Ko, H., & Wexler, K. (2004). Article semantics in L2-acquisition: The role of specificity. Language Acquisition, 12, 369.
Ionin, T., & Montrul, S. (2010). The role of L1-transfer in the interpretation of articles with definite plurals in L2-English. Language Learning, 60, 877925.
Ionin, T., Montrul, S., Kim, J.-H., & Philippov, V. (2011). Genericity distinctions and the interpretation of determiners in second language acquisition. Language Acquisition, 18, 242280.
Ionin, T., Montrul, S., & Santos, H. (2011). An experimental investigation of the expression of genericity in English, Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese. Lingua, 121, 963985.
Ionin, T., Zubizarreta, M. L., & Bautista Maldonado, S. (2008). Sources of linguistic knowledge in the second language acquisition of English articles. Lingua, 118, 554576.
Ionin, T., Zubizarreta, M. L., & Philippov, V. (2009). Acquisition of article semantics by child and adult L2-English learners. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 12, 337361.
King, L., & Suñer, M. (1998). Gramática española: Análisis y práctica. New York: McGraw–Hill.
Ko, H., Ionin, T., & Wexler, K. (2010). The role of presuppositionality in the second language acquisition of English articles. Linguistic Inquiry, 41, 213254.
Kratzer, A. (1995). Stage-level and individual-level predicates. In Carlson, G. & Pelletier, F. (Eds.), The generic book (pp. 125175). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Krifka, M., Pelletier, F., Carlson, G., ter Meulen, A., Link, G., & Chierchia, G. (1995). Genericity: An introduction. In Carlson, G. & Pelletier, F. (Eds.), The generic book (pp. 1124). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Longobardi, G. (1994). Reference to kinds and proper names: A theory of N movement in syntax and logical form. Linguistic Inquiry, 25, 609665.
Longobardi, G. (2001). How comparative is semantics? A unified parametric theory of bare nouns and proper names. Natural Language Semantics, 9, 335369.
Manzini, M. R., & Wexler, K. (1987). Parameters, binding theory, and learnability. Linguistic Inquiry, 18, 413444.
Master, P. (1987). A cross-linguistic interlanguage analysis of the acquisition of the English article system. PhD dissertation, UCLA.
Montrul, S. (2001). Agentive verbs of manner of motion in Spanish and English as second languages. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 23, 171206.
Montrul, S. (2010). Dominant language transfer in adult L2 learners and heritage speakers. Second Language Research, 3, 293327.
Montrul, S., & Ionin, T. (in press). Dominant language transfer in Spanish heritage speakers and L2 learners in the interpretation of definite articles. Modern Language Journal.
Murphy, S. (1997). Knowledge and production of English articles by advanced second language learners. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Texas at Austin.
Odlin, T. (1989). Language transfer: Cross-linguistic influence in language learning. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Ojeda, A. (1991). Definite descriptions and definite generics. Linguistics and Philosophy, 14, 367398.
O'Neill, R., Cornelius, E., & Washburn, G. (1981). American kernel lessons: Advanced student book. New York: Longman.
Pérez-Leroux, A. T., Munn, A., Schmitt, C., & DeIrish, M. (2004). Learning definite determiners: Genericity and definiteness in English and Spanish. BUCLD 28 Proceedings Supplement.
Schmitt, C., and Munn, A. (1999). Against the nominal mapping parameter: Bare nouns in Brazilian Portuguese. In Tamanji, P., Hirotani, M., & Hall, N. (Eds.), Proceedings of NELS 29. Amherst, MA: GLSA.
Schmitt, C., & Munn, A. (2002). The syntax and semantics of bare arguments in Brazilian Portuguese. Linguistic Variation Yearbook, 2, 185216.
Schwartz, B. D. (2003). Child L2 acquisition: Paving the way. In Beachley, B., Brown, A., & Conlin, F. (Eds.), Proceedings of the 27th annual Boston University Conference on Language Development (pp. 2650). Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Press.
Schwartz, B. D., & Sprouse, R. A. (1994). Word order and nominative case in non-native language acquisition: A longitudinal study of (L1 Turkish) German interlanguage. In Hoekstra, T. & Schwartz, B. D. (Eds.), Language acquisition studies in generative grammar: Papers in honor of Kenneth Wexler from the 1991 GLOW workshops (pp. 317368). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Schwartz, B. D., & Sprouse, R. A. (1996). L2 cognitive states and the full transfer/full access model. Second Language Research, 12, 4072.
Serratrice, L., Sorace, A., Filiaci, F., & Baldo, M. (2009). Bilingual children's sensitivity to specificity and genericity: Evidence from metalinguistic awareness. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 12, 239257.
Slabakova, R. (2006). Learnability in the second language acquisition of semantics: A bidirectional study of a semantic parameter. Second Language Research, 22, 498523.
Slabakova, R. (2008). Meaning in the second language. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
Slabakova, R., & Montrul, S. (2003). Genericity and aspect in L2 acquisition. Language Acquisition, 11, 165196.
Thomas, M. (1989). The acquisition of English articles by first- and second-language learners. Applied Psycholinguistics, 10, 335355.
Trenkic, D. (2008). The representation of English articles in second language grammars: Determiners or adjectives? Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 11, 118.
Tsimpli, I.-M., & Sorace, A. (2006). Differentiating Interfaces: L2 performance in syntax–semantics and syntax–discourse phenomena. In Caunt-Nulton, H., Kulatilake, S., & Woo, I.-H. (Eds.), Proceedings of the 31st Boston University Conference on Language Development (Vol. 3, pp. 653664). Sommerville, MA: Cascadilla Press.
Unsworth, S. (2005). Child L2, adult L2, child L1: Differences and similarities. A study on the acquisition of direct object scrambling in Dutch. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Utrecht University.
Vergnaud, J.-R., & Zubizarreta, M. L. (1992). The definite determiner and the inalienable constructions in French and English. Linguistic Inquiry, 23, 595652.
White, L. (2003). Second language acquisition and Universal Grammar. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
White, L. (2009). Grammatical theory: Interfaces and L2 knowledge. In Ritchie, W. & Bhatia, T. K. (Eds.), Handbook of Second Language Acquisition. Oxford: Blackwell.
Zamparelli, R. (2002). Definite and bare kind-denoting noun phrases. In Beyssade, C., Bok-Bennema, R., Drijkoningen, F., & Monachesi, P. (Eds.), Romance languages and linguistic theory 2000 (pp. 305343). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Applied Psycholinguistics
  • ISSN: 0142-7164
  • EISSN: 1469-1817
  • URL: /core/journals/applied-psycholinguistics
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Metrics

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed