Volume 5, Issue 1
  • ISSN 2542-3835
  • E-ISSN: 2542-3843
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This study presents the results of an experimental investigation into the L2 acquisition of the core-peripheral distinction in the syntax of split intransitivity by L1 Mandarin EFL learners to verify whether or not their L2 acquisition is lexically constrained by the Split Intransitivity Hierarchy, which predicts that core verbs have primacy in both L1 and L2 acquisition over peripheral ones (Sorace, 200020042011). Two diagnostics of English split intransitivity, the prenominal past participles (PPPs) and the constructions, were used to test native English speakers and Mandarin EFL learners’ gradient acceptability with respect to core-peripheral verb classes. The results of an acceptability judgment test show that both native speakers and nonnative speakers are sensitive to the core-peripheral distinction in the two diagnostics, and EFL learners exhibit a native-like sensitivity to core unaccusatives in PPPs but not in the constructions. The results confirm that the core-peripheral distinction can be accounted for neither by L1 transfer nor L2 input, which suggests for the behavior is due to direct access to semantic universals in the L2 acquisition of split intransitivity syntax.


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