L3 INITIAL STATE: TYPOLOGICAL PRIMACY DRIVEN, L2 FACTOR DETERMINDED, OR L1 FEATURE ORIENTED?
The present study investigates the interpretation of null subject and object pronouns in matrix and embedded clauses by twenty-five adult Chinese speakers of advanced L2 English acquiring L3 French in the initial stage and twenty-three participants of the same L1/L2 background acquiring L3 Spanish in the initial stage. It tests predictions made by three theories in L3 acquisition: the Typological Primacy Model of Rothman (2011), the L2 Status Factor of Bardel and Falk (2007) and Falk and Bardel (2011), and the Interpretability Hypothesis of Tsimpli and Dimitrakopoulou (2007). Asymmetries displayed in learners’ interpretation of null matrix subjects and null embedded subjects as well as in null matrix subjects and null matrix and embedded objects suggest not only subjects and objects but also matrix and embedded clauses are treated differently by L1 Chinese/L2 English speakers of L3 French and L3 Spanish. The observed behaviour can be explained following Kong (2005) that adult learners have no access to uninterpretable syntactic features.
Key words: L3 pronouns, interpretability, topics, UG, initial state