Volume 11, Issue 3
  • ISSN 1879-9264
  • E-ISSN: 1879-9272
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Definite and demonstrative determiners in English share the same central semantics of uniqueness (e.g., Hawkins, 1991Ionin, Baek, Kim, Ko, & Wexler, 2012Wolter, 2006), but the computation of the semantics is constrained by different discourse conditions and determined by pragmatic knowledge, which pertains to the interface between semantics and pragmatics. This paper investigates whether L2 learners may have persistent difficulty in acquiring properties involving the semantics-pragmatics interface, by exploring the acquisition of L2 English definite and demonstrative determiners by advanced and near-native L1 Chinese learners of English. It also examines whether acquisition results are influenced by the learners’ L1 Chinese, which lacks an article system but allows demonstrative determiners. The results from a forced-choice written task show that advanced learners were unable to distinguish between the two determiners in different discourse conditions; near-native-level L1 Chinese learners displayed a native-like preference for the definite determiner, but not for the demonstrative determiner. It is argued that convergence at the semantics-pragmatics interface is not impossible for L2 learners, but (un)acquirability may be constrained by asymmetries in the L1–L2 realizations of semantics-pragmatics mappings. The findings raise interesting questions for future research into factors that can influence the acquisition of external interfaces.


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