Chapter 2. Processing Alignments

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PT proposes two key hypotheses to account for sentence-like structures in early SLA: (i) the Unmarked Alignment Hypothesis says that learners map the most prominent semantic role onto the subject function and the most prominent structural position; (ii) the Topic Hypothesis says that learners do not differentiate subject and topic (Pienemann, DiBiase & Kawaguchi, 2005). This chapter identifies theory-internal problems for these claims, and presents empirical data which shows that they do not hold for Samoan SLA. For theoretical reasons, no NPs produced by early learners can be considered ‘subjects’ and, while initial NPs in early L2 Samoan tend overwhelmingly to be semantically prominent, the converse is not true, initial NPs are not always topical, and semantically prominent NPs may be focal, or background. An account of the observed facts is provided within the framework of LFG without exceeding the procedural capacities accorded to early learners by PT.


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