Chapter 6. Constraints on Processing

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This chapter focuses on the nature of the L2 initial mental grammatical system and the related question to what extent L2 learners transfer syntactic structures from their L1 at the L2 initial state. Transfer is viewed within the overall context of a model of the L2 initial mental grammatical system, which is claimed to be underdeveloped and highly constrained. The constraints are spelled out in the <i>Multiple Constraints Hypothesis</i> (Lenzing, 2013) and it is argued that they do not allow for full transfer at the initial state. In keeping with this, the perspective on transfer adopted here is the <i>Developmentally Moderated Transfer Hypothesis</i> (Pienemann, 1998; Pienemann et al., 2005a) and its claim that transfer is constrained by processability. The results of an empirical study of early L2 learners of English with German as L1 are presented that provide support for (a) the Multiple Constraints Hypothesis and (b) the Developmentally Moderated Transfer Hypothesis. In particular, the results indicate that at the initial state of L2 acquisition, L1 transfer merely plays a minor role, as learners predominantly rely on single words, formulaic sequences and both lexically and structurally restricted idiosyncratic utterances.


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