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restricted access Unaccusative and Unergative Verbs in L2 English
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1 The Journal of Chinese Linguistics ISSN 0091-3723/Unaccusative and unergative verbs in L2 English Preprint 2017©2015 by The Journal of Chinese Linguistics. All rights reserved. (0304) UNACCUSATIVE AND UNERGATIVE VERBS IN L2 ENGLISH Stano Kong Tunghai University, Taiwan ABSTRACT A number of studies in the second language (L2) research argue that a general unergative-unaccusative distinction is made syntactically and semantically in adult L2 acquisition. Attempts to provide empirical evidence of the L2 English unergative-unaccusative distinction by adult Chinese speakers have only recently begun to appear. The present study investigates the acquisition of unergative and unaccusative verbs in L2 English by adult Chinese speakers. One hundred and twenty-one L1 Chinese speakers of different levels of English proficiency participated in a judgment test and a Chinese-English translation task. It is argued that the results are consistent with proposals made by Yip (1995) and Balcom (1997) which argue for overgeneralization of passive morphology to unaccusative verbs in L2 English. The results also show that, contrary to findings in the literature, learners have persistent difficulty establishing native-like syntactic realization of unergative verbs in L2 English: unergative verbs seem to have been interpreted as transitive verbs. It is speculated that the low accuracy on unergative verbs can be accounted for when Case assignment and the absence of positive evidence that unergative+NP construction is not allowed in English are factored in. _____________________ Acknowledgment The results reported here are supported by the Ministry of Technology of Taiwan (MOST103-2410-H-029-025). The generous support of the ministry is greatly acknowledged. The author would also like to thank the anonymous Journal of Chinese Linguistics reviewers for their valuable feedback and many insightful comments. The author claims no conflict of interests. Stano Kong []; Department of Foreign Languages and Literature, Tunghai University, 181 Taichung Harbour Road, Sec. 3, Taichung City, 40704, Taiwan. 2 JOURNAL OF CHINESE LINGUISTICS (PREPRINT) The Journal of Chinese Linguistics ISSN 0091-3723/Unaccusative and unergative verbs in L2 English Preprint 2017©2015 by The Journal of Chinese Linguistics. All rights reserved. (0304) KEYWORDS Unergative Unaccusative Alternating unaccusative L1 transfer 1. INTRODUCTION There appear to be two observations in which studies of second language English development of unaccusative and unergative verbs are made. Firstly, the mental grammars of L2 English learners involve an unaccusative-unergative distinction in the way native speakers do (Hirakawa, 1995, 1999, 2001, 2003; Oshita, 2000, 2001, 2004; Yip, 1995; Balcom 1997). Secondly, L2 learners, advanced learners included, tend to overgeneralise the passive morpheme to unaccusative verbs and stop short of becoming native-like (Zobl, 1989; Yip, 1995; Balcom 1997). While early L2 studies looking at the acquisition of English unaccusative and unergative verbs show similar results, there is no agreement among those studies about factors influencing learners’ grammar building. Chung (2014) is a recent exception, which tests two groups of L2 learners of English on their ability to acquire unaccusative verbs. Chung proposes a multi-faceted approach in accounting for the native non-native divergence in the acquisition of L2 English unaccusatives. Chung examines factors such as discourse (external causation), semantics (animacy), and L1 morphology (verb alternation) in relation to the acquisition of English unaccusative verbs, and concludes that L1 morphology is the most important factor among the three in accounting for overpassivization of unaccusative verbs in L2 English. While Chung provides an interesting account to the observed behavior in the literature, the focus of his study is on unaccusative verbs only. Thus, the current study is intended to fill the gap in this research area by investigating the acquisition of English unergative and unaccusative verbs. One of the questions that this study attempts to address is whether or not an unaccusative-unergative distinction can be made and if the passive morpheme constitutes part of the unaccusative verbs in learners’ interlanguage. The second question that the study specifically addresses is what determines L2 grammar building. It is hoped that the answers to the second question can shed some light on the acquisition of unaccusative verbs in particular and on the on-going debate UNACCUSATIVE AND UNERGATIVE VERBS IN L2 ENGLISH 3 The Journal of Chinese Linguistics ISSN 0091-3723...