Pragmatic solutions for syntactic problems: Understanding some L2 syntactic errors in terms of discourse-pragmatic deficits

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Contemporary research in generative second language (L2) acquisition has attempted to address observable target-deviant aspects of L2 grammars within a UG-continuity framework (e.g. Lardiere 2000; Schwartz 2003; Sprouse 2004; Prévost & White 1999, 2000). With the aforementioned in mind, the independence of pragmatic and syntactic development, independently observed elsewhere (e.g. Grodzinsky & Reinhart 1993; Lust et al. 1986; Pacheco & Flynn 2005; Serratrice, Sorace & Paoli 2004), becomes particularly interesting. In what follows, I examine the resetting of the Null-Subject Parameter (NSP) for English learners of L2 Spanish. I argue that insensitivity to associated discoursepragmatic constraints on the discursive distribution of overt/null subjects accounts for what appear to be particular errors as a result of syntactic deficits. It is demonstrated that despite target-deviant performance, the majority must have native-like syntactic competence given their knowledge of the Overt Pronoun Constraint (Montalbetti 1984), a principle associated with the Spanish-type setting of the NSP.


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