College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences Theses and Dissertations

Graduation Date

6-2015

Document Type

Thesis

College/Department Conferring Degree

Modern Languages

Keywords

interface hypothesis, L2 Spanish, syntax-pragmatics interface, clitic-doubled left dislocation, syntax-discourse interface

Abstract

The Interface Hypothesis (IH) claims that constructions that involve an interface between syntax and other cognitive domains are especially vulnerable to residual optionality or instability in bilingual grammars. However, the evidence is inconsistent and more research is necessary to elucidate which interface properties are vulnerable and in what way. The present work contributes to this debate by testing the IH using experimental evidence of clitic-doubled left dislocation (CLLD), a syntax-discourse interface phenomenon, in adult learners of Spanish as a foreign language. CLLD implies moving the direct or indirect object to the left periphery of the sentence, and adding a resumptive clitic pronoun that does not add any meaning to the sentence. While a canonical sentence can be used in any discursive context, a sentence containing a CLLD can only be used if the CLLD refers to the discursive topic and explains something about it. While the research of L2 acquisition of CLLD have used several methodologies, the discussion is still missing data from production tasks. Data from production tasks have been used successfully in the study of several other syntactic structures that involve interfaces, even in left dislocations similar to Spanish CLLD. Three groups of learners at different proficiency levels will respond to twenty questions that require either CLLD or contrastive answers (fronted focus, clefts, or focal adverbs). The main goal of the study is to discover if adult learners of Spanish as a foreign language are able to use complex syntactic structures in the correct discursive context.

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