Skip to main content
×
×
Home

Second language acquisition of pragmatic inferences: Evidence from the French c'est-cleft

  • EMILIE DESTRUEL (a1) and BRYAN DONALDSON (a2)
Abstract

This paper examines the extent to which second language (L2) speakers of French acquire the semantic and pragmatic (or interpretive) properties associated with the c'est-cleft, specifically the exhaustive inference. This phenomenon is relevant to theories of language acquisition because it is situated at the interface of syntax and pragmatics. The results from a forced-choice task challenge the empirical adequacy of the interface hypothesis (Sorace, 2011, 2012; Sorace & Filiaci, 2006), which claims that external interfaces between a linguistic module and a cognitive module remain problematic even at the highest levels of L2 acquisition. The results from 40 L2 learners at three proficiency levels reveal development from nontargetlike to nativelike behavior. In particular, the high-proficiency group interprets the c'est-cleft, as well as canonical subject–verb–object sentences and sentences with exclusives (i.e., seul(ement) “only”), in a statistically identical way to the French native speaker control group.

Copyright
Corresponding author
ADDRESS FOR CORRESPONDENCE Emilie Destruel, University of Iowa, 111 Philipps Hall, Iowa City, IA 52242. E-mail: emiliedestrueljohnson@gmail.com
References
Hide All
Abrahamsson, N., & Hyltenstam, K. (2009). Age of onset and nativelikeness in a second language: Listener perception versus linguistic scrutiny. Language Learning, 59, 249306.
Bardovi-Harlig, K. (2003). Understanding the role of grammar in the acquisition of L2 pragmatics. In Martínez, A., Juan, E. Usó, & Guerra, A. Fernández (Eds.), Pragmatic competence and foreign language teaching (pp. 2544). Castelló de la Plana, Spain: Publicacions de la Universitat Jaume I.
Barr, D. J., Levy, R., Scheepers, C., & Tily, H. J. (2013). Random effects structure for confirmatory hypothesis testing: Keep it maximal. Journal of Memory and Language, 68, 255278.
Bartning, I. (1997). C'est—In native and non-native spoken French. Studier i Modern Språkventenskap, 11, 1347.
Bartning, I., & Hammarberg, B. (2007). The functions of a high-frequency collocation in native and learner discourse: The case of French c'est and Swedish det är. International Review of Applied Linguistics, 45, 143.
Bates, D. M. (2005). Fitting linear mixed models. R News, 5, 2730.
Belletti, A. (2005). Answering with a cleft: The role of the null subject parameter and the VP periphery. In Brugè, L., Giusti, G., Munaro, N., Schweikert, W., & Turano, G. (Eds.), Proceedings of the 30th Incontro di Grammatica Generativa (pp. 6382). Venice, Italy: Cafoscarina.
Belletti, A., Bennati, E., & Sorace, A. (2007). Theoretical and developmental issues in the syntax of subjects: Evidence from near-native Italian. Natural Language & Linguistic Theory, 25, 657689.
Birch, S. L., & Rayner, K. (1997). Linguistic focus affects eye movements during reading. Memory and Cognition, 25, 653660.
Bohnacker, U. (2010). The clause-initial position in L2 Swedish declaratives: Word order variation and discourse pragmatics. Nordic Journal of Linguistics, 33, 105143.
Bott, L., & Noveck, I. A. (2004). Some utterances are underinformative: The onset and time course of scalar inferences. Journal of Memory and Language, 51, 437457.
Bourns, S. K. (2014). Contrasting c'est-clefts and it-clefts in discourse. In Bourns, S. K. & Myers, L. L. (Eds.), Perspectives on linguistic structure and context (pp. 199222). Amsterdam: Benjamins.
Carter-Thomas, S. (2009). The French c'est-cleft: Functional and formal motivations. In Banks, D., Eason, S., & Ormrod, J. (Eds.), La linguistique systémique fontionnelle et la langue française (pp. 127156). Paris: L'Harmattan.
Chierchia, G., Crain, S., Guasti, M. T., Gualmini, A., & Meroni, L. (2001). The acquisition of disjunction: Evidence for a grammatical view of scalar implicatures. In: Do, A. H.-J., Domínguez, L., & Johansen, A. (Eds.), Proceedings of the 25th Boston University Conference on Language Development (pp. 157168). Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Press.
Clech-Darbon, A., Rebuschi, G., & Rialland, A. (1999). Are there cleft sentences in French? In Rebuschi, G. & Tuller, L. (Eds.), The grammar of focus (pp. 83118). Amsterdam: Benjamins.
DeCat, C. (2007). French dislocation: Interpretation, syntax and acquisition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Dekydtspotter, L., & Farmer, K. (2016). On the processing of subject clefts in English–French interlanguage: Parsing to learn and the subject relativizer qui . In Guijarro-Fuentes, P., Schmitz, K., & Müller, N. (Eds.), The acquisition of French in multilingual contexts (pp. 6693). Bristol: Multilingual Matters.
Destruel, E. (2013). An empirical investigation of the meaning and use of the French c'est-cleft (Doctoral dissertation, University of Texas at Austin).
Destruel, E., & Farmer, T. A. (2015). Processing exhaustive in English it-clefts. Poster presented at the XPrag Conference, Chicago.
Destruel, E., Velleman, D., Onea, E., Bumford, D., Xue, J., & Beaver, D. (2015). A cross-linguistic study of the non at-issueness of exhaustive inferences. In Schwarz, F. (Ed.), Experimental perspectives on presuppositions (pp. 135156). Dordrecht: Springer.
Donaldson, B. (2011a). Left dislocation in near-native French. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 33, 399432.
Donaldson, B. (2011b). Nativelike right-dislocations in near-native French. Second Language Research, 27, 361390.
Donaldson, B. (2012). Syntax and discourse in near-native French: Clefts and focus. Language Learning, 62, 902930.
Drenhaus, H., Zimmermann, M., & Vasishth, S. (2011). Exhaustiveness effects in clefts are not truth-functional. Journal of Neurolinguistics, 24, 320337.
Ellis, N. (2006). Language acquisition as rational contingency learning. Applied Linguistics, 27, 124.
Ferdinand, A. (2002). Acquisition of syntactic topic marking in L2 French. In Broekhuis, H. & Fikkert, P. (Eds.), Linguistics in the Netherlands (pp. 4959). Amsterdam: Benjamins.
Féry, C. (2013). Focus as prosodic alignment. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory, 31, 683734.
Grodner, D., Klein, N. M., Carbary, K. M., & Tanenhaus, M. K. (2010). “Some,” and possibly all, scalar inferences are not delayed: Evidence for immediate pragmatic enrichment. Cognition, 116, 4255.
Gross, M. (1968). Grammaire transformationnelle du français: Syntaxe du verbe. Paris: Larousse.
Hamlaoui, F. (2007). French cleft sentences and the syntax-phonology interface. In Radišić, M. (Ed.), Actes du congrès annuel de l'Association canadienne de linguistique 2007 (pp. 15051518). Saskatchewan: Canadian Linguistic Association.
Hartmann, K., & Veenstra, T. (2013). Cleft structures. Amsterdam: Benjamins.
Hedberg, N. (2000). On the referential status of clefts. Language, 76, 891920.
Heizmann, T. (2007). Children's acquisition of exhaustivity in clefts. In Caunt-Nulton, H., Kulatilake, S., & Woo, I.–H. (Eds.), Proceedings of the 31st Boston University Conference on Language Development (pp. 298309). Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Press.
Heizmann, T. (2012). Exhaustivity in questions and clefts; and the quantifier connection: A study in German and English (Doctoral dissertation, University of Massachusetts, Amherst).
Hofmeister, P. (2009). Encoding effects on memory retrieval in language comprehension. Paper presented at the 22nd CUNY Conference on Human Sentence Processing, University of California, Davis.
Hopp, H. (2009). The syntax-discourse interface in near-native L2 acquisition: Off-line and online performance. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 12, 463483.
Horn, L. (1981). Exhaustiveness and the semantics of clefts. In Burke, V. & Pustejovsky, J. (Eds.), Proceedings of the 11th Annual Meeting of the North East Linguistic Society (pp. 125142). Amherst, MA: Graduate Student Linguistic Association.
Huang, Y., & Snedeker, J. (2009). On-line interpretation of scalar quantifiers: Insight into the semantics–pragmatics interface. Cognitive Psychology, 58, 376415.
Johnson, J. S., & Newport, E. L. (1989). Critical period effects in second language learning: The influence of maturational state on the acquisition of English as a second language. Cognitive Psychology, 21, 6099.
Katz, S. L. (1997). The syntactic and pragmatic properties of the c'est-cleft construction (Doctoral dissertation, University of Texas at Austin).
Kiss, K. E. (1998). Identificational focus versus information focus. Language, 74, 245273.
Krifka, M. (2008). Basic notions of information structure. Acta Linguistica Hungarica, 55, 243276.
Lambrecht, K. (1986). Pragmatically motivated syntax: Presentational cleft constructions in spoken French. In Farley, A. M., Farley, P. T., & McCullough, K.–E. (Eds.), Papers from the Parasession on Pragmatics and Grammatical Theory (pp. 115126). Chicago: Chicago Linguistic Society.
Lambrecht, K. (1987). On the status of SVO sentences in French discourse. In Tomlin, R. S. (Ed.), Coherence and grounding in discourse (pp. 217261). Amsterdam: Benjamins.
Lambrecht, K. (1994). Information structure and sentence form. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Lambrecht, K. (2001). A framework for the analysis of cleft constructions. Linguistics, 39, 463516.
Lardiere, D. (2011). Who is the interface hypothesis about? Linguistic Approaches to Bilingualism, 1, 4853.
Levinson, S. C. (2000). Presumptive meanings: The theory of generalized conversational implicature. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Lozano, C. (2002). The interpretation of overt and null pronouns in non-native Spanish. Durham Working Papers in Linguistics, 8, 5366.
Marinova-Todd, S. H. (2003). Comprehensive analysis of ultimate attainment in adult second language acquisition (Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University).
Noveck, I. (2001). When children are more logical than adults: Experimental investigations of scalar implicature. Cognition, 78, 165188.
O'Grady, W., Lee, M., & Kwak, H.-Y. (2009). Emergentism and second language acquisition. In Ritchie, W. & Bhatia, T. (Eds.), Handbook of second language acquisition (pp. 6988). Bingley: Emerald Group.
Onea, E., & Beaver, D. (2011). Hungarian focus is not exhausted. In Cormany, E., Ito, S., & Lutz, D. (Eds.), Proceedings of Semantics and Linguistic Theory (SALT) 19 (pp. 342359). Ljubljana, Slovenia: eLanguage.
Pavlou, N. (2014). Experimental insights: Explicit and implicit exhaustivity. Paper presented at the 15th meeting of the Texas Linguistics Society, Austin, TX.
Prince, E. F. (1978). A comparison of wh-clefts and it-clefts in discourse. Language, 54, 883906.
R Development Core Team. (2016). R: A language and environment for statistical computing. Vienna: R Foundation for Statistical Computing. Retrieved from https://www.R-project.org/
Reeve, M. (2010). Clefts (Doctoral dissertation, University College London).
Reeve, M. (2011). The syntactic structure of English clefts. Lingua, 121, 142171.
Reichle, R. V. (2008). Syntactic focus structure processing: Behavioral and electrophysiological evidence from L1 and L2 French (Doctoral dissertation, dissertation, University of Texas at Austin).
Reichle, R. V., & Birdsong, D. (2014). Processing focus structure in L1 and L2 French: L2 proficiency effects on ERPs. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 36, 535564.
Rooth, M. E. (1992). A theory of focus interpretation. Natural Language Semantics, 1, 75116.
Rothman, J. (2009). Pragmatic deficits with syntactic consequences? L2 pronominal subjects and the syntax–pragmatics interface. Journal of Pragmatics, 41, 951973.
Rowlett, P. (2007). The syntax of French. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Schwartz, B. D., & Sprouse, R. A. (1996). L2 cognitive states and the full transfer/full access model. Second Language Research, 12, 4072.
Skopeteas, S., & Fanselow, G. (2010.) Focus types and argument asymmetries: A cross-linguistic study in language production. In Breul, C. & Göbbel, E. (Eds.), Contrastive information structure (pp. 169197). Amsterdam: Benjamins.
Slabakova, R. (2010). Scalar implicatures in second language acquisition. Lingua, 120, 24442462.
Slabakova, R. (2015). The effect of construction frequency and native transfer on second language knowledge of the syntax–discourse interface. Applied Psycholinguistics, 36, 671699.
Slabakova, R., Kempchinsky, P., & Rothman, J. (2012). Clitic-doubled left dislocation and focus fronting in L2 Spanish: A case of successful acquisition at the syntax-discourse interface. Second Language Research, 28, 319343.
Sleeman, P. (2004). Guided learners of French and the acquisition of emphatic constructions. International Review of Applied Linguistics, 42, 129151.
Sorace, A. (2003). Near-nativeness. In Long, M. & Doughty, C. (Eds.), Handbook of second language acquisition (pp. 130152). Oxford: Blackwell.
Sorace, A. (2011). Pinning down the concept of “interface” in bilingualism. Linguistic Approaches to Bilingualism, 1, 133.
Sorace, A. (2012). Pinning down the concept of interface in bilingual development: A reply to peer commentaries. Linguistic Approaches to Bilingualism, 2, 209216.
Sorace, A., & Filiaci, F. (2006). Anaphora resolution in near-native speakers of Italian. Second Language Research, 22, 339368.
Tracy-Ventura, N., McManus, K., Norris, J. M., & Ortega, L. (2014). “Repeat as much as you can”: Elicited imitation as a measure of oral proficiency in L2 French. In Leclercq, P., Edmonds, A., & Hilton, H. (Eds.), Measuring L2 proficiency: Perspectives from SLA (pp. 143166). Bristol: Multilingual Matters.
Tremblay, A. (2011). Proficiency assessment standards in second language acquisition research. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 33, 339372.
Trévise, A. (1986). Is it transferable, topicalization? In Kellerman, E. & Smith, M. Sharwood (Eds.), Crosslinguistic influence in second language acquisition (pp. 186206). New York: Pergamon Press.
Tsimpli, I., & Sorace, A. (2006). Differentiating interfaces: L2 performance in syntax semantics and syntax discourse phenomena. In Bamman, D., Magnitskaia, T., & Zeller, C. (Eds.), Proceedings of the 30th annual Boston University Conference on Language Development (Vol. 2, pp. 653664). Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Press.
Valdman, A. (1988). Classroom foreign language learning and language variation: The notion of pedagogical norms. World Englishes, 7, 221236.
Valenzuela, E. (2006). L2 end state grammars and incomplete acquisition of Spanish CLLD constructions. In Slabakova, R., Montrul, S., & Prévost, P. (Eds.), Inquiries in linguistic development: In honor of Lydia White (pp. 283304). Amsterdam: Benjamins.
Watorek, M. (2004). Construction du discours par des apprenants de langues, enfants et adultes. Acquisition et Interaction en Langue Etrangère, 20, 129171.
White, L. (1989). Universal grammar and second language acquisition. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
White, L. (2011a). Second language acquisition at the interfaces. Lingua, 121, 577590.
White, L. (2011b). The interface hypothesis: How far does it extend? Linguistic Approaches to Bilingualism, 1, 108110.
Xue, J., & Onea, E. (2011). Correlation between presupposition projection and at-issueness: An empirical study. In Kierstead, G. (Ed.), Proceedings of the ESSLLI 2011 Workshop on Projective Meaning (pp. 171184). Ljubljana, Slovenia: eLanguage.
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