Edited by Leah Roberts, Florence Myles and Annabelle David
[EUROSLA Yearbook 8] 2008
► pp. 215–234
Inclusion of auxiliaries: Competence and performance differences in early learners
Researchers argue that variable use of inflectional morphology demonstrates a lack of underlying syntactic representation in second language learners. Others disagree and argue for a full syntactic representation: stating that variable use of morphology during early the stages of learning is due to the difficulty of mapping an underlying representation onto surface form. Twelve beginning L2 learners, whose L1 was Japanese or Korean (East Asians), and nine L2 learners, whose L1 was various Indo-European languages (Non Asians) participated in an elicited imitation experiment, and additional twelve East Asians participated in a grammaticality judgment experiment. The targets included mono-clausal declarative sentences and wh-questions with the auxiliaries be, can, and do. In imitation, the prevalent error was auxiliary omission. Learners fronted whwords successfully. They also inverted auxiliaries successfully when they included them. Along with imitation, the results of grammaticality judgment support the argument that beginning L2 learners have difficulty producing the surface forms of the auxiliaries and tense morphology, not with forming the correct syntactic representation for questions.
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