Volume 9, Issue 3
  • ISSN 1879-9264
  • E-ISSN: 1879-9272
Buy:$35.00 + Taxes



Given recent interest in interface properties in bilingual acquisition, this study examined Chinese-English adolescent bilinguals' acquisition of English telicity – a property whose semantic interpretation (aspectual completion versus incompletion) is influenced by morphosyntax (mass/count distinction). Differences between Chinese and English exist in both mass/count (Chierchia, 1998) and telicity (Soh & Kuo, 2005). Despite existing L2 literature on telicity and mass/count, the relationship between these two areas in learning has not been adequately addressed. A naturalness rating task (on telicity) and a grammaticality judgment task (on mass/count) were administered on 120 bilingual participants (11 and 14 year olds). Our results overall show that mass/count knowledge was acquirable whereas telicity was only partially so. There was a small correlation between these two areas of knowledge. We discuss our results in terms of the role of linguistic input, interface variation, methodological issues, and the nature of telicity marking in Chinese.


Article metrics loading...

Loading full text...

Full text loading...


  1. Bao, Z.
    (2005) The aspectual system of Singapore English and the systemic substratist explanation. Journal of Linguistics, 41(02), 237–267. doi:  10.1017/S0022226705003269
    https://doi.org/10.1017/S0022226705003269 [Google Scholar]
  2. (2015) The making of vernacular Singapore English: System, transfer and filter. Cambridge: Cambridge University Presss. doi:  10.1017/CBO9781139135375
  3. Barner, D., & Snedeker, J.
    (2005) Quantity judgments and individuation: evidence that mass nouns count. Cognition, 97(1), 41–66. doi:  10.1016/j.cognition.2004.06.009
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cognition.2004.06.009 [Google Scholar]
  4. Bloom, P.
    (1994) Syntax-semantics mappings as an explanation for some transitions in language development. InY. Levy (Ed.), Other children, other languages: Issues in the theory of language acquisition (pp.41–75). New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
    [Google Scholar]
  5. Borer, H.
    (2005) The normal course of events. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  6. Borgonovo, C., Garavito, J. B. de, & Prévost, P.
    (2015) Mood selection in relative clauses. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 37(01), 33–69. doi:  10.1017/S0272263114000321
    https://doi.org/10.1017/S0272263114000321 [Google Scholar]
  7. Cheng, L. L. -S., & Sybesma, R.
    (1999) Bare and not-so-bare nouns and the structure of NP. Linguistic Inquiry, 30(4), 509–542. doi:  10.1162/002438999554192
    https://doi.org/10.1162/002438999554192 [Google Scholar]
  8. Chierchia, G.
    (1998) Reference to kinds across language. Natural Language Semantics, 6(4), 339–405. doi:  10.1023/A:1008324218506
    https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1008324218506 [Google Scholar]
  9. Clahsen, H., & Hong, U.
    (1995) Agreement and null subjects in German L2 development: new evidence from reaction-time experiments. Second Language Research, 11(1), 57–87. doi:  10.1177/026765839501100103
    https://doi.org/10.1177/026765839501100103 [Google Scholar]
  10. Coppieters, R.
    (1987) Competence differences between native and near-native speakers. Language, 63(3), 544–573. doi:  10.2307/415005
    https://doi.org/10.2307/415005 [Google Scholar]
  11. Dekydtspotter, L., Sprouse, R. A., & Anderson, B.
    (1997) The interpretive interface in L2 acquisition: The process-result distinction in English-French interlanguage grammars. Language Acquisition, 6(4), 297. doi:  10.1207/s15327817la0604_2
    https://doi.org/10.1207/s15327817la0604_2 [Google Scholar]
  12. Dekydtspotter, L., Sprouse, R. A., & Thyre, R.
    (2000) The interpretation of quantification at a distance in English-French interlanguage: Domain specificity and second language acquisition. Language Acquisition, 8(4), 265. doi:  10.1207/S15327817LA0804_01
    https://doi.org/10.1207/S15327817LA0804_01 [Google Scholar]
  13. Dekydtspotter, L., & Sprouse, R. A.
    (2001) Mental design and (second) language epistemology: adjectival restrictions of wh-quantifiers and tense in English-French interlanguage. Second Language Research, 17(1), 1–35. doi:  10.1191/026765801673991253
    https://doi.org/10.1191/026765801673991253 [Google Scholar]
  14. Dixon, L. Q., Zhao, J., & Joshi, R. M.
    (2012) One dress, two dress: Dialectal influence on spelling of English words among kindergarten children in Singapore. System, 40(2), 214–225. doi:  10.1016/j.system.2012.02.003
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.system.2012.02.003 [Google Scholar]
  15. Donaldson, B.
    (2011) Nativelike right-dislocation in near-native French. Second Language Research, 27(3), 361–390. doi:  10.1177/0267658310395866
    https://doi.org/10.1177/0267658310395866 [Google Scholar]
  16. Gabriele, A.
    (2010) Deriving meaning through context: interpreting bare nominals in second language Japanese. Second Language Research, 26, 379–405. doi:  10.1177/0267658310365783
    https://doi.org/10.1177/0267658310365783 [Google Scholar]
  17. Gabriele, A., & Canales, A.
    (2011) No time like the present: Examining transfer at the interfaces in second language acquisition. Lingua, 121(4), 670–687. doi:  10.1016/j.lingua.2010.07.010
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.lingua.2010.07.010 [Google Scholar]
  18. Gil, D.
    (2003) English goes Asian: Number and (in) definiteness in the Singlish noun phrase. InF. Plank (Ed.), Noun phrase structure in the languages of Europe (pp.467–514). Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
    [Google Scholar]
  19. Guijarro-Fuentes, P., & Marinis, T.
    (2007) Acquiring phenomena at the syntax/semantics interface in L2 Spanish: The personal preposition a. EUROSLA Yearbook, 7, 67–88. doi:  10.1075/eurosla.7.06gui
    https://doi.org/10.1075/eurosla.7.06gui [Google Scholar]
  20. Hilles, S.
    (1986) Interlanguage and the pro-drop parameter. Second Language Research, 2(1), 33–52. doi:  10.1177/026765838600200103
    https://doi.org/10.1177/026765838600200103 [Google Scholar]
  21. Hodgson, M.
    (2010) Locatum structures and the acquisition of telicity. Language Acquisition, 17(3), 155. doi:  10.1080/10489223.2010.497407
    https://doi.org/10.1080/10489223.2010.497407 [Google Scholar]
  22. Hua, D., & Lee, H.
    (2005) Chinese ESL learners’ understanding of the English count-mass distinction. InProceedings of the 7th Generative Approaches to Second Language Acquisition Conference (GASLA 2004) (pp.138–149).
    [Google Scholar]
  23. Jackendoff, R.
    (1996) The proper treatment of measuring out, telicity, and perhaps even quantification in English. Natural Language & Linguistic Theory, 14(2), 305–354. doi:  10.1007/BF00133686
    https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00133686 [Google Scholar]
  24. Jiang, N.
    (2004) Morphological insensitivity in second language processing. Applied Psycholinguistics, 25(4), 603–634. doi:  10.1017/S0142716404001298
    https://doi.org/10.1017/S0142716404001298 [Google Scholar]
  25. Kaku, K., Liceras, J. M., and Kazanina, N.
    (2008) Progressing beyond the neutral perfective: Acquisition of English aspect by native speakers of Japanese. InR. Slabakova, J. Rothman, P. Kempchinsky, & E. Gavruseva (Eds.), Proceedings of the 9th Generative Approaches to Second Language Acquisition Conference, (pp.90–102). Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Proceedings Project.
    [Google Scholar]
  26. Lardiere, D.
    (2009) Some thoughts on the contrastive analysis of features in second language acquisition. Second Language Research, 25(2), 173–227. doi:  10.1177/0267658308100283
    https://doi.org/10.1177/0267658308100283 [Google Scholar]
  27. Lim, V. P. C., Liow, S. J. R., Lincoln, M., Chan, Y. H., & Onslow, M.
    (2008) Determining language dominance in English – Mandarin bilinguals: Development of a self-report classification tool for clinical use. Applied Psycholinguistics, 29(03), 389–412. doi:  10.1017/S0142716408080181
    https://doi.org/10.1017/S0142716408080181 [Google Scholar]
  28. Liu, F. H.
    (1997) An aspectual analysis of ba. Journal of East Asian Linguistics, 6(1), 51–99. doi:  10.1023/A:1008287920948
    https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1008287920948 [Google Scholar]
  29. Miller, K., & Schmitt, C.
    (2010) Effects of variable input in the acquisition of plural in two dialects of Spanish. Lingua, 120(5), 1178–1193. doi:  10.1016/j.lingua.2008.05.009
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.lingua.2008.05.009 [Google Scholar]
  30. Ministry of Education Singapore [Google Scholar]
  31. Ministry of Education Singapore
    Ministry of Education Singapore (n.d.). Mother tongue language policy. Retrieved fromhttps://www.moe.gov.sg/admissions/returning-singaporeans/singaporeans-returning-home/mother-tongue-policy
    [Google Scholar]
  32. Montrul, S., & Slabakova, R.
    (2002) The L2 acquisition of morphosyntactic and semantic properties of the aspectual tenses preterite and imperfect. InA. T. Perez-Leroux & J. M. Liceras (Eds.), The acquisition of Spanish morphosyntax (pp.115–151). Dordrecht: Kluwer. doi:  10.1007/978‑94‑010‑0291‑2_5
    https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-010-0291-2_5 [Google Scholar]
  33. Oshita, H.
    (1997) The Unaccusative trap: L2 acquisition of English intransitive verbs (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). University of Southern California, USA
    [Google Scholar]
  34. Rothman, J.
    (2009) Pragmatic deficits with syntactic consequences?: L2 pronominal subjects and the syntax – pragmatics interface. Journal of Pragmatics, 41(5), 951–973. doi:  10.1016/j.pragma.2008.07.007
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pragma.2008.07.007 [Google Scholar]
  35. Rothman, J., & Slabakova, R.
    (2011) The Mind-Context Divide: On acquisition at the linguistic interfaces. Lingua, 121(4), 568–576. doi:  10.1016/j.lingua.2011.01.003
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.lingua.2011.01.003 [Google Scholar]
  36. Peck, J., Lin, J., & Sun, C.
    (2013) Aspectual classification of Mandarin Chinese verbs: A perspective of scale structure. Language and Linguistics, 14(4), 663.
    [Google Scholar]
  37. Pelletier, F.
    (1979) Non-singular reference: Some preliminaries. InF. Pelletier (Ed.), Mass terms: Some philosophical problems (pp.1–14). Dordrecht: Reidel. doi:  10.1007/978‑1‑4020‑4110‑5
    https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4020-4110-5 [Google Scholar]
  38. Pires, A., Rothman, J., & Santos, A. L.
    (2011) L1 acquisition across Portuguese dialects: Modular and interdisciplinary interfaces as sources of explanation. Lingua, 121(4), 605–622. doi:  10.1016/j.lingua.2010.06.002
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.lingua.2010.06.002 [Google Scholar]
  39. Platt, J.
    (1975) The Singapore English speech continuum and its basilect ‘Singlish’ as a ‘Creoloid’. Anthropological Linguistics17(7), 363–374.
    [Google Scholar]
  40. Schwartz, B. D., & Sprouse, R. A.
    (1996) L2 cognitive states and the Full Transfer/Full Access model. Second Language Research, 12(1), 40–72. doi:  10.1177/026765839601200103
    https://doi.org/10.1177/026765839601200103 [Google Scholar]
  41. Serratrice, L., Sorace, A., Filiaci, F., & Baldo, M.
    (2009) Bilingual children’s sensitivity to specificity and genericity: Evidence from metalinguistic awareness. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 12(02), 239–257. doi:  10.1017/S1366728909004027
    https://doi.org/10.1017/S1366728909004027 [Google Scholar]
  42. Slabakova, R.
    (2000) L1 transfer revisited: the L2 acquisition of telicity marking in English by Spanish and Bulgarian native speakers. Linguistics, 38(4), 739. doi:  10.1515/ling.2000.004
    https://doi.org/10.1515/ling.2000.004 [Google Scholar]
  43. (2001) Telicity in the second language. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. doi:  10.1075/lald.26
    https://doi.org/10.1075/lald.26 [Google Scholar]
  44. (2005) What is so difficult about telicity marking in L2 Russian?Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 8(01), 63–77. doi:  10.1017/S1366728904002093
    https://doi.org/10.1017/S1366728904002093 [Google Scholar]
  45. (2006) Learnability in the second language acquisition of semantics: a bidirectional study of a semantic parameter. Second Language Research, 22(4), 498–523. doi:  10.1191/0267658306sr277oa
    https://doi.org/10.1191/0267658306sr277oa [Google Scholar]
  46. (2008) Meaning in the second language. Berlin; New York: Mouton de Gruyter. doi:  10.1515/9783110211511
    https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110211511 [Google Scholar]
  47. Slabakova, R., Kempchinsky, P., & Rothman, J.
    (2012) Clitic-doubled left dislocation and focus fronting in L2 Spanish: A case of successful acquisition at the syntax – discourse interface. Second Language Research, 28(3), 319–343. doi:  10.1177/0267658312447612
    https://doi.org/10.1177/0267658312447612 [Google Scholar]
  48. Smith, C. S.
    (1997) The parameter of aspect. Dordrecht: Springer Netherlands. doi:  10.1007/978‑94‑011‑5606‑6
    https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-011-5606-6 [Google Scholar]
  49. Snape, N.
    (2008) Resetting the nominal mapping parameter in L2 English: Definite article use and the count – mass distinction. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 11(01), 63–79. doi:  10.1017/S1366728907003215
    https://doi.org/10.1017/S1366728907003215 [Google Scholar]
  50. Soh, H. L., & Kuo, J. Y. -C.
    (2005) Perfective aspect and accomplishment situations in Mandarin Chinese. InH. J. Verkuyl, H. de Swart, & A. van Hout (Eds.), Perspectives on aspect (pp.199–216). Dordrecht, the Netherlands: Springer. doi:  10.1007/1‑4020‑3232‑3_11
    https://doi.org/10.1007/1-4020-3232-3_11 [Google Scholar]
  51. Sorace, A.
    (2011) Pinning down the concept of “interface” in bilingualism. Linguistic Approaches to Bilingualism, 1(1), 1–33. doi:  10.1075/lab.1.1.01sor
    https://doi.org/10.1075/lab.1.1.01sor [Google Scholar]
  52. Sorace, A., & Filiaci, F.
    (2006) Anaphora resolution in near-native speakers of Italian. Second Language Research, 22(3), 339–368. doi:  10.1191/0267658306sr271oa
    https://doi.org/10.1191/0267658306sr271oa [Google Scholar]
  53. Sorace, A., & Serratrice, L.
    (2009) Internal and external interfaces in bilingual language development: Beyond structural overlap. International Journal of Bilingualism, 13(2), 195–210. doi:  10.1177/1367006909339810
    https://doi.org/10.1177/1367006909339810 [Google Scholar]
  54. Sorace, A., Serratrice, L., Filiaci, F., & Baldo, M.
    (2009) Discourse conditions on subject pronoun realization: Testing the linguistic intuitions of older bilingual children. Lingua, 119(3), 460–477. doi:  10.1016/j.lingua.2008.09.008
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.lingua.2008.09.008 [Google Scholar]
  55. Statistics Singapore [Google Scholar]
  56. Stringer, D., Burghardt, B., Seo, H. -K., & Wang, Y. -T.
    (2011) Straight on through to Universal Grammar: Spatial modifiers in second language acquisition. Second Language Research, 27(3), 289–311. doi:  10.1177/0267658310384567
    https://doi.org/10.1177/0267658310384567 [Google Scholar]
  57. Tai, H. Y.
    (1984) Verbs and times in Chinese: Vendler’s four categories. InD. Testen & V. Mishra (Eds.), Papers from the Parasession on Lexical Semantics (pp.289–296). Chicago Linguistic Society.
    [Google Scholar]
  58. Tenny, C. L.
    (1994) Aspectual roles and the syntax-semantics interface. Dordrecht: Springer Netherlands. doi:  10.1007/978‑94‑011‑1150‑8
    https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-011-1150-8 [Google Scholar]
  59. Thompson, E.
    (2006) The structure of bounded events. Linguistic Inquiry, 37(2), 211–228. doi:  10.1162/ling.2006.37.2.211
    https://doi.org/10.1162/ling.2006.37.2.211 [Google Scholar]
  60. Umeda, M.
    (2008) Second language acquisition of Japanese wh-constructions (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). McGill University, Canada.
    [Google Scholar]
  61. Wee, L., & Ansaldo, U.
    (2004) Nouns and noun phrases. InL. Lim (Ed.), Singapore English: A grammatical description (pp.57–74). Amsterdam; Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing. doi:  10.1075/veaw.g33.05wee
    https://doi.org/10.1075/veaw.g33.05wee [Google Scholar]
  62. White, L.
    (1985) The “pro-drop” parameter in adult second language acquisition. Language Learning, 35(1), 47–61. doi:  10.1111/j.1467‑1770.1985.tb01014.x
    https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-1770.1985.tb01014.x [Google Scholar]
  63. (1991) Adverb placement in second language acquisition: some effects of positive and negative evidence in the classroom. Second Language Research, 7, 133–161. doi:  10.1177/026765839100700205
    https://doi.org/10.1177/026765839100700205 [Google Scholar]
  64. (2003) Second language acquisition and Universal Grammar. Cambridge University Press. doi:  10.1017/CBO9780511815065
    https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511815065 [Google Scholar]
  65. (2011) Second language acquisition at the interfaces. Lingua, 121(4), 577–590. doi:  10.1016/j.lingua.2010.05.005
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.lingua.2010.05.005 [Google Scholar]
  66. Whong, M., Gil, K. H., & Marsden, H.
    (Eds.) (2013) Universal Grammar and the second language classroom. Dordrecht: Springer Netherlands. doi:  10.1007/978‑94‑007‑6362‑3
    https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-007-6362-3 [Google Scholar]
  67. Yin, B.
    (2012) Investigating Chinese speakers’ acquisition of telicity in English (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). University of Southern California, USA.
    [Google Scholar]
  68. Yuan, B.
    (2010) Domain-wide or variable-dependent vulnerability of the semantics – syntax interface in L2 acquisition? Evidence from wh-words used as existential polarity words in L2 Chinese grammars. Second Language Research, 26(2), 219–260. doi:  10.1177/0267658309349421
    https://doi.org/10.1177/0267658309349421 [Google Scholar]

Data & Media loading...

  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): interface hypothesis; morphosyntax-semantics interface; telicity
This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was successful
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error