Knowledge of expletive and pronominal subjects by learners of Spanish
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Second language acquisitionAdquisición de segundas lenguasPronounsPronombresPronominal subjectsExpletivesPro-drop parameterNull-subject parameterELE
Lozano, C. Knowledge of expletive and pronominal subjects by learners of Spanish. En: ITL Review of Applied Linguistics, 2002, pp. 135-136.[http://hdl.handle.net/10481/22170]
SponsorshipUniversity of Hertfordshire, Department of Modern Languages
A number of studies investigating second language acquisition (SLA) from the perspective of Principles and Parameters Theory (P&P, Chomsky, 1981, 1995) have focused on the pro-drop parameter, and have argued that older second language learners are sensitive to the different properties it purportedly covers (e.g., Al-Kasey & Pérez-Leroux, 1998; Liceras, 1989; Phinney, 1987; White, 1986). In this paper we extend this work by investigating two of its syntactic corollaries, namely, referential pronominal subjects (ProS) and expletive pronominal subjects (ExpS). In so-called [+pro-drop] languages both may be realised as an empty element (pro). While on the surface these forms are identical, referential subject pro is different from expletive subject pro both syntactically and semantically; syntactically because referential pro co-exists with a set of overt subject pronouns (yo ‘I’, tú ‘you’, etc), whereas there are no overt expletive pronouns; semantically because referential pro is distinguished for 3 persons, number and gender features, whereas expletive pro would appear to be a third person, singular, gender-neutral pronoun. We will examine whether older L2 learners are sensitive to these differences by using paired grammaticality judgement tests (PGJT). Results are consistent with the claim that learners have different mental representations for ProS and ExpS.