2004 Linguistics Mathematics
SemanticScholar ID: 117261873 MAG: 914533199

The Issue of Morphological Variation in Adult L2 French

Publication Summary

Recent research on the nature of interlanguage (IL) grammars has focused on the issue of variability in the production of inflectional morphology by second language (L2) learners, namely the fact that main verbs may be used in either a finite or nonfinite form. The question is whether morphological variability reflects some kind of grammatical deficit in underlying grammars. According to the Impairment Representation Hypothesis (IRH), it is indeed the case. Under a global view of impairment, Universal Grammar (UG) is not available to (adult) L2 learners (Meisel 1997). In particular, the fact that problems with morphology are persistent in L2 acquisition (even in advanced stages), in contrast to L1 acquisition, is taken as an indication that L2 acquisition is fundamentally different from L1 acquisition. If IL and L1 grammars are different in nature, then this suggests that functional categories, features, and feature-checking mechanisms are lacking in L2 systems (Prevost and White 2000b). According to a local view of impairment, only (finite) feature strength is impaired (Beck 1998; Eubank et al 1997). This means that verb placement is not related to feature checking. A verb, regardless of its form (finite or nonfinite), could appear in a finite position (e.g. above negation, or with a clitic or DP subject) or a nonfinite one (e.g. following a preposition, a negative adverb, or another verb). In short, inert finite features result in morphological variability. In contrast to the IRH, some researchers have proposed that adult IL grammars are not impaired (Epstein et al 1996; Prevost and White 2000a,b; Schwartz and Sprouse 1996). Directly addressing the issue of variability, the Missing Surface Inflection Hypothesis (MSIH) holds that abstract properties may be present in the underlying grammar without being systematically realised morphologically (Haznedar and Schwartz 1997; Lardiere 2000; Prevost and White 2000a,b). More specifically, L2 learners may have problems accessing the relevant morphology or mapping morphology and syntax. According to this view, infinitival forms are used as default finite forms, which means that verbs that look nonfinite on the surface may occur in finite positions. Under the Truncation Hypothesis (TH), the production of nonfinite forms instead of finite verbs is structurally determined (Prevost and White 2000a). It is held that the root of declarative clauses may vary: it can be CP, IP, or VP (see Rizzi 1993/1994). On this view, a root infinitive (RI), namely a root declarative whose main verb is either an infinitival form or a past

CAER Authors

Avatar Image for Philippe Prévost

Prof. Philippe Prévost

University of Tours - Professor of linguistics

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