The interpretation of overt and null pronouns in non-native Spanish
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Marsden, H., Pourcel, S. and Whong-Barr, M. (eds)
Second language acquisitionAdquisición de segundas lenguasOvert pronoun constraintContrastive focus constraintUniversal grammarThird language acquisitionL3 acquisitionPro-drop parameterNull-subject parameterELE
Lozano, C. The interpretation of overt and null pronouns in non-native Spanish. En: Durham Working Papers in Linguistics, vol. 8: 53-66.[http://hdl.handle.net/10481/22172]
SponsorshipEconomic and Social Research Council (ESRC), UK
At advanced levels of proficiency L2 learners can achieve native-like competence (e.g., Kanno, 1997; Pérez-Leroux & Glass, 1997, 1999). However, other studies report that learners only achieve near-native competence and show representational deficits despite long immersion in the L2 (Hawkins, 2000; Sorace, 1993). Interestingly, these claims derive from different types of property within Universal Grammar (UG). The former studies focus on universal principles, whereas the latter investigate properties which UG allows to vary (within limits) and attribute lack of native-like competence to L1 influence on the L2. An interesting question is whether this is the expected pattern in SLA: that advanced L2 speakers will always show native-like competence where principles are involved, but persistently fossilise on language-specific differences. In this study a principle and a language-specific property in the acquisition of non-native Spanish are considered. In particular, I investigate two pronominal constraints: the Overt Pronoun Constraint (OPC) (Montalbetti, 1984, 1986) and the Contrastive Focus Constraint (CFC). An experiment was designed to compare sensitivity to both constructions in advanced learners of Spanish (Greek natives and English natives). Results suggest that both non-native groups’ behaviour towards OPC constructions is not different from Spanish native speakers, whereas only English natives differ from Spanish natives in CFC constructions. If the OPC is a principle of UG, as has been claimed, this supports the prediction that advanced learners can achieve native-like competence on properties which differ from the L1 but derive from universal principles of grammar design. By contrast, the problems which English, but not Greek, speakers have with the CFC support the claim that language-specific properties are potential targets for fossilisation.