Article published in:EUROSLA Yearbook: Volume 9 (2009)
Edited by Leah Roberts, Georges Daniel Véronique, Anna Nilsson and Marion Tellier
[EUROSLA Yearbook 9] 2009
► pp. 33–55
Sources of fluctuation in article choice in English and German by Syrian Arabic and Japanese native speakers
Recent work by Tania Ionin and colleagues (Ionin et al. 2004a; Ionin et al. 2008) has suggested that native speakers of article-less languages may fluctuate between selecting articles based on definiteness and selecting them based on specificity. This was termed the Fluctuation Hypothesis (Ionin et al. 2004a). The Fluctuation Hypothesis assumes learners to have full access to Universal Grammar (UG) properties, including those which are not instantiated in their L1 grammars. This contrasts with the Failed Functional Features Hypothesis (Hawkins and Chan 1997), now termed the Representational Deficit Hypothesis (Hawkins and Franceschina 2004; Hawkins et al. 2006). This proposes that learners will fail to acquire uninterpretable features, if these are not present in their L1. The current study tests the Fluctuation Hypothesis with two new groups of speakers acquiring languages with definite and indefinite articles which are marked for definiteness, whilst still allowing a semantic distinction between [+specific] and [–specific]. The languages acquired are German, by native speakers of Japanese, a language without articles; and English, by native speakers of Syrian Arabic, a language with an overt marker for definiteness, but not for indefiniteness. Although the initial results seem to indicate that fluctuation may be responsible for optionality amongst these learners, further analysis shows that this variation may be due to other factors.
Published online: 31 July 2009
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