Date of Award

8-1-2013

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Department

Applied Linguistics

First Advisor

Berry, James

Abstract

Recent research in both native (L1) and non-native (L2) knowledge of quantifier scope has led to a number of competing beliefs about the nature of learner knowledge. With regard to native knowledge, it has been noted in the literature that there is a discrepancy between L1 child and adult performance in quantifier interpretation. This observed mismatch has led to the formulation of two conflicting analyses of the L1 data. Philip (1991, 1992, and 1995) and others (Philip and Takahashi, 1991; Roeper, Strauss and Pearson, 2004, 2005; DelliCarpini, 2003) propose that quantification is a natural acquisition process constrained by Universal Grammar (UG) in which children progressively mature in their competence until they converge upon an adult grammar. Conversely, Crain (1995, 1996, and 1998) and others (Musolino, Crain and Thornton, 2000; Musolino and Lidz, 2006) maintain that children as young as five years old have a mature competence and that the failure to apply semantic principles is the result of the infelicitous nature of experimental task items. Essentially, the former account posits imperfect child L1 competence, while the latter asserts perfect competence. Similar research in the non-native (L2) knowledge of quantifier scope has been motivated by two essential questions: 1) Is adult L2 acquisition constrained by the same innate linguistic mechanisms as L1 acquisition; and 2) what is the role of L1 knowledge in adult L2 acquisition? (Marsden, 2004b: 9). In consideration of these questions, two main approaches have been devised as predictive models (following Epstein, Flynn and Martohardjono, 1996; Grüter, Lieberman and Gualmini, 2008, 2010). Under the Full Transfer hypothesis, the learner is predicted to approach an L2 with the same values, settings and preferences of the L1, whereas under the Full Access account, the L2 learner is informed by the Language Faculty directly without the intervening effects of the L1 (Grüter et al., 2008: 47). A third approach, Schwartz and Sprouse's (1996) model, unites both Full Access and Full Transfer to explain L2 acquisition. The present study explores L1 Mandarin knowledge of L2 English quantifier scope in order to address the issue of perfect vs. imperfect competence (as applied to SLA), as well as the matter of access to UG vs. L1 transfer. Incorporating insights from DelliCarpini (2003), I first assess the presence of symmetric and exhaustive responses, which are indicative of an immature grammar. Crucially, I use one group (n=11) of L2 English speakers (low intermediate and advanced) in order to test for a maturational discrepancy that would putatively differ according to proficiency. Secondly, I identify a potential poverty of the stimulus situation: L1 transfer cannot account for the L2 acquisition of English non-isomorphic scope licensing by native speakers of Mandarin Chinese due to the Isomorphic Principle (Aoun and Li, 1993). If demonstrated, the ability of L2 learners to converge upon this semantic principle (non-isomorphism) will serve as potential evidence for access to Universal Grammar in adult non-native learners.

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