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The Acquisition of Verbal Agreement in Instructed Italian L2A

  • Author(s): Rodgers, Daryl M
  • et al.

Published Web Location

https://doi.org/10.5070/L2319071
Abstract

Researchers propose that L2 learners acquire the abstract features of agreement at relatively low levels of L2 proficiency (Bruhn de Garavito, 2003a, 2003b). However, some argue that there is also evidence for the use of default forms in learners’ errors (McCarthy, 2007, 2008), and that these may be predicted based on the morphological underspecification hypothesis (MUSH). Studies in Italian child L1A (e.g., Pizzuto & Caselli, 1992) and Italian adult L2A (e.g., Banfi & Bernini, 2003) have found evidence for the use of such variability and for defaults, in particular 3rd person singular forms. Similar results have been found in studies on the acquisition of L2 verbal inflection in other languages, including Spanish (McCarthy, 2007). Other views (e.g., the MSIH) propose instead that inflection is generally correct and that defaults surface as nonfinite/ bare forms not inflected ones (e.g., Prévost & White, 2000).

This present study examined the acquisition of verbal agreement in both comprehension and production by 85 university-level L2 learners of Italian. By analyzing accuracy rates, evidence was found for the acquisition of agreement morphology even at low levels of proficiency, particularly in comprehension. Although error rates were generally low, patterns emerged whereby certain persons of the verb (especially the 3rd person singular) were used as defaults to replace other forms. It is argued that results provide support for no impairment in adult L2A in general, and for the MUSH in particular.

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