The acquisition of the Pro-drop parameter by non-native speakers of Spanish

Guijarro-Fuentes, P 1998, The acquisition of the Pro-drop parameter by non-native speakers of Spanish , PhD thesis, University of Salford.

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Abstract

Chomsky's (1981, 1995) principles and parameters proposal for language acquisition theory assumes that the child is genetically endowed with principles of Universal Grammar. These principles interact with environmental data to determine the particular language that the child will learn. Research into L1 acquisition strongly suggests that a child's parameter setting process takes place on the basis of fairly minimal positive evidence derived from the linguistic environment. Recent discussions of parameter setting in SLA have proposed various interpretations of this process. Two different models can be proposed: non-access to UG vs access to UG. The non-access to UG (Bley-Vroman, 1989; Clashen and Muysken, 1986) model claims that L1 and L2 acquisition are completely different learning mechanisms. In contrast, different versions of the access to UG model have recently been proposed. Some researchers have claimed that while L2 learners have full access to UG, their initial state grammars are different, involving either full transfer of L1 properties (Schwartz and Sprouse, 1996) or a partial transfer of L1 properties (Vainikka and Young-Scholten, 1996). Others have proposed partial access to UG (Tsimpli and Roussou, 1991; Smith and Tsimpli, 1995). In the context of the pro-drop parameter, Liceras (1989) assumes full access, while Tsimpli and Roussou (1991), Sopher (1995) claim that learners have serious difficulty in resetting the parameter. Moreover, L2 acquisition research shows that most learners fail to achieve equivalent competence even when exposed to many years of naturalistic and classroom data. The subjects of this study, who began the study of Spanish at the University of Salford, have had intensive classroom instruction plus six months' residence abroad. This investigation, based on the recognised features of the pro-drop parameter (expletive, free inversion of subjects, that-trace filter and absence of subject pronouns), sets out to discover a) whether classroom data (intensive university teaching) had enabled the subjects to reset the parameter at the first time of testing (after three semesters at university), b) whether the naturalistic data of six months residence in Spain had enabled the subjects to reset the parameter, c) whether, if all or part of the parameter had not been reset by the time of their return from residence abroad, further intensive teaching aimed at this area could provoke parameter resetting. The methodology makes use of repeated grammaticality judgement and translation tests. Analysis of our results shows that L2 learners of Spanish do not acquire the pro-drop parameter as a cluster. We claim, however, that the results do support the view of access to UG model, but that access is through categories, and is variable. Furthermore, we claim that L2 learners of Spanish do not attain a position corresponding to that of the final stage of L1 acquisition (contra Phinney, 1987; White, 1985). The possibility exists, however, that other linguistic analyses may reveal different patterns of learning.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Depositing User: A Johnson
Date Deposited: 14 Jul 2017 10:02
Last Modified: 14 Jul 2017 10:02
URI: http://usir.salford.ac.uk/id/eprint/43029

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