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Title:The Pro-drop Parameter in Second Language Acquisition Revisited: A Developmental Account [Dissertation]
Authors:Larry LaFond
Comment:Dissertation, University of South Carolina
Abstract:This dissertation applies a particular theory of language
acquisition and representation, Optimality Theory (Prince
and Smolensky 1993, Grimshaw 1997), and a particular
learning algorithm within this theory, the Constraint
Demotion Algorithm (Tesar and Smolensky 2000), to the
problem of how second language acquisition of pro-drop
takes place for learners whose first language does not
instantiate the grammatical properties traditionally
associated with pro-drop.

The overarching goal of this study is to provide an
account of the developmental stages in the second language
learning of three grammatical properties: null subjects,
inversion, and that-trace. Although there is no lack of
such accounts from earlier generative perspectives, the
need remains for a comprehensive developmental account
from an Optimality-theoretic perspective. This
dissertation begins to address that need.

The study is based on several empirical tests (a
translation task, a pilot study, and a grammaticality
judgment task) that were administered to 370 adult native
English speakers studying Spanish at the University of
South Carolina or the Pennsylvania State University. Each
task was designed to investigate learner competencies
regarding null subjects, inversion, and that-trace. A key
conclusion from these studies is that the acquisition of
Spanish by native speakers of English involves a reranking
of universal syntactic and discoursal constraints in these
languages. Specifically, this dissertation argues that
acquisition of Spanish occurs through the demotion of
certain syntactic constraints in the English native
grammar so that these constraints are dominated by
discoursal constraints in the Spanish second language

Area/Keywords: Second Language Acquisition, Learnability
Article:Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7
Part 8
Part 9