AN ASMMETRY IN THE ACQUISITION OF ENGLISH DEFINITE AND INDEFINITE ARTICLES BY CHINESE SPEAKERS OF L2 ENGLISH
Stano Kong / Tunghai University
This study investigates the acquisition of L2 English articles in relation to two hypotheses, namely the Full Transfer/Full Access (FT/FA) Hypothesis (Schwartz and Sprouse 1994, 1996) and the Interpretability Hypothesis (Tsimpli and Dimitrakopoulou, 2007). Eighty-eight adult L1 speakers of Chinese (a language that lacks articles) of different English proficiency levels were asked to interpret articles in various contexts in two elicitation tasks. Their responses were compared with those of fifteen native English speakers. Contrary to predictions made by the FT/FA Hypothesis, which stipulates that learners have access to UG and will converge to the target grammatical representations, the non-native speakers in the current study overwhelming preferred the definite article in all contexts, including in the indefinite contexts. It is argued that the asymmetrical treatment of definite and indefinite articles in learners’ interlanguage can be accounted for following the Interpretability Hypothesis. In particular, we propose that the observed L2 behaviour results from an inaccessibility of an uninterpretable syntactic [u-Num] feature, which is subject to a critical period. The L2 interlanguage grammar involves the use of alternative resources made available by UG.