Infinitivals at the End-State: Evidence for L2 Acquisition of English Non-finite Complementation
Heil, Jeanne E.
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Abstract This dissertation investigates the knowledge of English non-finite complement constructions by near-native L1 Spanish/L2 English learners. In particular, this study concerns Object Control, Raising to Object, and for-type constructions. Although the three constructions look identical on the surface, they are in fact distinct syntactic configurations. The different configurations result from differences in their selectional properties, which can be detected using various tests. Two of these tests include the (non)allowance of expletives and of bare aspect non-stative verbs in the complement. Whereas all three types can take a copular complement, only Object Control disallows expletives. These constructions also differ with regard to the acceptability of non-stative verbs in their complements. Whereas Raising to Object has no expletive restriction, it is the only sentence type that cannot take bare non-stative complements. Finally, for-type constructions have virtually no restrictions on the non-finite complement but also allow for an optional overt complementizer. Therefore the three types are distinct despite their surface similarity. These constructions are of particular interest because they are not commonly taught in the L2 English classroom, meaning that their acquisition relies on input as well as L1 knowledge. Further, a subset of these forms—especially Raising to Object—are highly infrequent. Because Raising to Object is acquired by L1 English speakers, their infrequency in input has no bearing on ultimate attainment in L1 acquisition. If evidence of the acquisition of Raising to Object in L2 acquisition were to be found, this would suggest that L2 acquisition can be achieved even for structures that are extremely infrequent, as occurs in L1 acquisition. This dissertation provides exactly this type of evidence: using a timed acceptability judgment task, 19 near-native L1 Spanish/L2 English learners exhibit sensitivity to the subtle, highly infrequent restrictions in non-finite complementation, including those of Raising to Object. This finding runs counter to proposals that predict that the mechanisms used in L1 and L2 acquisition are different (e.g., Bley-Vroman, 1989, 1990, 2009).
SubjectSecond Language Acquisition