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When Swedes begin to learn German: From V2 to V2
Lund University.
2006 (English)In: Second language research, ISSN 0267-6583, E-ISSN 1477-0326, Vol. 22, no 4, 443-486 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This article investigates verb placement, especially Verb second

(V2), in post-puberty second language (L2) learners of two closely

related Germanic V2 languages: Swedish and German. Håkansson,

et al. (2002) have adduced data from first language (L1) Swedish-speaking

learners of German in support of the claim that the syntactic

property of V2 never transfers from the L1 to L2 interlanguage

grammars. Regardless of L1, learners are said to follow a hypothesized

universal developmental path of L2 German verb placement,

where V2 is mastered very late (only after Object–Verb, OV, has

been acquired), if ever. Explanations include the notion of

Subject–Verb–Object (SVO) being a more basic, ‘canonical’ word

order (e.g. Clahsen and Muysken, 1986), so-called ‘vulnerability’

of the C-domain (Platzack, 2001), and ‘processability’, according

to which SVX and Adv–SVX (i.e. V3) are easier to process (i.e.

produce) than XVS (i.e. V2) (e.g. Pienemann, 1998). However, the

empirical data comes exclusively from Swedes learning German as

a third language, after substantial exposure to English. When these

learners violate V2, syntactic transfer from English, a non-V2 language,

cannot be ruled out. In order to control for this potential confound,

I compare new oral production data from six adult Swedish

ab initio learners of German, three with prior knowledge of English

and three without. With an appropriate elicitation method, the

informants can be shown to productively use non-subject-initial V2

in their German after four months of exposure, at a point when their

interlanguage syntax elsewhere is non-targetlike (VO instead of

OV). Informants who do not know English never violate V2 (0%),

indicating transfer of V2-L1 syntax. Those with prior knowledge of

English are less targetlike in their L3-German productions (45% V2

violations), indicating interference from non-V2 English. These

results suggest that, contra Håkansson et al. (2002), learners do

transfer the property of V2 from their L1, and that L2 knowledge of

a non-V2 language (English) may obscure this V2 transfer. The

findings also suggest that V2 is not difficult to acquire per se, and

that V2 is not developmentally dependent on target headedness of

the VP (German OV) having been acquired first.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2006. Vol. 22, no 4, 443-486 p.
National Category
General Language Studies and Linguistics Specific Languages
Research subject
Linguistics; German; Scandinavian Languages
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-112653OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-112653DiVA: diva2:287300
Available from: 2010-01-18 Created: 2010-01-18 Last updated: 2016-06-21Bibliographically approved

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