SINGLE AND MULTIPLE WH-QUESTIONS ASYMMETRY IN ADULT CHINESE SPEAKERS’ L2 ENGLISH
Researchers working within the interfaces framework (Sorace and Filiaci 2006; Sorace 2011) argue that properties involving interaction between linguistic properties and other cognitive domains may pose greater difficulty to end-state second language (L2) learners than properties belonging to language faculty components. Other researchers see the problems as internal (Tsimpli and Dimitrakopoulou 2007). The current study investigates two hypotheses in relation to the acquisition of single and multiple wh-questions in simple and complex sentence structures in L2 English. Ninety adult L1 Chinese speakers of highly proficient L2 English together with twenty-one native English speakers were invited to take part in an acceptability judgment test. The results indicate that caution is required in interpreting failure to attain native-like knowledge as monolithic. It is argued that the results are consistent with the Interpretability Hypothesis of Tsimpli and Dimitrakopoulou (2007). In particular, following Hawkins and Hattori (2006), we speculate that the asymmetry in English-Chinese interlanguage grammars is the result of the inaccessibility of an uninterpretable syntactic feature [uwh:] in L2 English coupled with the transfer of wh-topicalization from L1 Chinese.