Edited by Leah Roberts, Ineke Vedder and Jan H. Hulstijn
[EUROSLA Yearbook 14] 2014
► pp. 143–172
The present paper investigates the grammar systems of Chinese learners of Spanish as a second language with the aim of contributing to current debates within contemporary generative second language (L2) acquisition theory: the extent to which adult learners are (un)able to acquire new functional features that result in a L2 grammar that is mentally structured like the native target language has led to recent accounts such as the Interpretability Hypothesis (Hawkins & Hattori 2006; Tsimpli & Dimitrakopoulou 2007) excluding L2A of non-L1 uninterpretable features, and more recently the Feature Reassembly Hypothesis (Lardiere 2009) claiming that L2 readjustment is an arduous acquisition task for [+/–] interpretable features. In evaluating both hypotheses, this study further explores L2A of uninterpretable and interpretable features by examining the development of certain Spanish features within the DP (i.e., [uGender]; [uNumber] and an interpretable Focus/Contrast feature) by L2 Chinese learners. Results of our two experimental tasks show that parametrically different uninterpretable and interpretable features are not totally accessible to adult L2 learners, but that proficiency level and individual differences figure largely in the implementation of them, causing competence target deviant patterns. Contrary to the IH, our results thus show initial underspecification of the [+/–] interpretable features in IL grammars and a gradual process which would first mimic L1-consistency before becoming native-like.