Morphology and syntax dissociation in SLA

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This paper investigates the L2 acquisition of Spanish object clitics by L1 English learners. Spanish clitics are analyzed as bundles of agreement and referential features morphologically marked for number and gender. We examine the relationship between morphology and syntax in L2 learners’ grammars in order to assess two current acquisition hypotheses: the Impaired Representation Hypothesis (IRH) and the Missing Surface Inflection Hypothesis (MSIH). Data from a production and a comprehension task suggest that learners have an unimpaired narrow syntax, despite apparent inflectional variability. We propose that absent or inaccurate morphology can be explained by a deficit in the mapping to PF. This supports a dissociation between syntactic representation and surface inflection.


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