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Presentation at the international conference: “Language Acquisition – comparative perspectives”, Homage to Clive Perdue December 5-6 2008, University of Paris 8. L1 or L2 acquisition? Development of finiteness in adult L2, in young children (2L1) and in bilingual children (cL2).

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Presentation at the international conference:

“Language Acquisition – comparative perspectives”,

Homage to Clive Perdue

December 5-6 2008,

University of Paris 8


L1 or L2 acquisition? Development of finiteness in adult L2, in young children (2L1) and in bilingual children (cL2)

Suzanne Schlyter, Lund University

In collaboration with

Jonas Granfeldt, Lund University and Maria Kihlstedt, Paris X

structure of the speech
Structure of the speech
  • Introduction
  • Part I: adult L2 acquisition
  • Part II: first language (L1) acquisition
  • Part III: child L2 acquisition
  • Part IV: Discussion
  • Working Hypothesis: Those children who have acquired INFL+COMP before the L2 acquisition starts, will develop L2 French like adult L2 learners
why finiteness
Why finiteness?
  • Central for the syntactic development – the I(NFL) category












Illustration - Syntactic structure



- que Pierre a t cassé la voiture

different positions on acquisition of finiteness and syntactic structure
Different positions on acquisition of finiteness and syntactic structure
  • A) Structure building:
  • L1 and L2, initial stages: only lexical elements (only VP, no INFL) (Perdue, Jordens, Hawkins, Myles …)
  • B) Complete syntactic representation in L1 and L2 from initial stages (L1: e.g. Wexler )
  • > adL2 learners have access to INFL, COMP etc from start (White 2003); lack of finite marking in L2 is a superficial problem (Missing Surface Inflection) (Lardière, Prevost, …)
  • C) Structure building in L1, complete syntax in L2 (Granfeldt 2003, Schlyter 2005)

Possibly syntactic growth = cognitive growth (Schlyter 2008)

meisel 2006 2007 2008 2 l1 vs adl2
Meisel (2006, 2007, 2008) :(2)L1 vs adL2
  • Fundamental difference L1-L2, only L1 UG-guided >> Critical Period
  • ”The FDH (…) enables us to make specific claims ablut the grammatical domains in which L2 is expected to differ from (2)L1”
  • (2)L1: on Subj-Verb Agr never errors (i.e. always je prends, never *je prendre etc)
marking of finiteness in french in children and adults
Marking of finiteness in FRENCHin children and adults
  • Subject clitic as ’prefix’

je mets / il marche

  • Difference finite – nonfinite forms

je mange / j’ai mangé

il prend / il va prendre

adl2 adult second lg acquisition
adL2 – adult second lg acquisition
  • Finite verb forms – a well known difficulty (ESF program, Prévost & White 2000, Herschensohn 2001, Schlyter 2004, Schlyter & Bartning 2005 etc)
  • (Prévost 2008): finite forms like il boit and non-finite verb forms in finite contexts: *il prendre des vêtements / *nous faire la cuisine
  • Proportion nonfinite verbs in finite contexts: ESF data Abdelmalek 24%, Zahra 22%
  • Prevost adL2 data: On all verbs: 27-2.5, 32-1.3, 15-0.7, 9-0.0% with growing stage. On lexical verbs only: 39-3.4, 54-2.6, 27-1.5, 15-0.0
swedish french adl2
Swedish-French adL2
  • Schlyter 2004:

*je comprendre, la dame comprendre

‘I understand-INF, the lady understand-INF’

*je ne connaître pas

‘I NEG know-INF NEG’

*eh quand on voir français eh …

‘eh when one see-INF French eh’

>> If V+Neg then IP; if CP then IP

>> Finiteness in syntactic sense is present – still nonfinite verbs

schlyter bartning 2005 nonfinite verbs forms in adl2
Schlyter & Bartning 2005nonfinite verbs forms in adL2
  • Initial stages (Stades 1 à 2, <9 months exposition):
  • Corpus Lund (Schlyter):
  • nonfinite forms 34% (of lexical verbs)
  • (= 64% finite forms)
  • Corpus InterFra (Bartning)
  • Nonfinite forms 22% (=78% finite f)
  • Thomas, A. (forthc) ca 50%
  • Advanced stages (from Stage 4 B&S):
  • practically NO nonfinite forms (cf. Prévost 2008 ’High Intermediate’)
summary adult l2 acq sw fr
Summary adult L2 acq (Sw>Fr)
  • Many nonfinite forms in finite contexts
  • Simultaneously AUX, MOD and SUBJUNCTIONS (=INFL, COMP), also in very early stages
  • Later: development towards correct finiteness
  • >> access to INFL from start
2 l1 first lg acquisition of finiteness in french
(2)L1 – first lg acquisition of finiteness in French
  • Initial stage without marking of finiteness

pleure, le bébé‘ weeps, the baby’

  • Soon complete marking without errors, correct syntax, evidence for acq of INFL

(Pierce 1992, Meisel 1994, Schlyter 2004, etc)

j’ai trouvé! ’I (have) found!

n'aime pas celle-là’like not (=don’t like) that one’

  • NEVER nonfinite forms after scl (like *je aimer, *il boire etc.)
2l1 swedish french children
2L1 Swedish – French children
  • Children growing up with Swedish and French (Schlyter 1993, 2004, 2005, Granfeldt 2003 etc.)
  • Next slide: Occ of subject + nonfinite form

(like *il prendre, *je boire )

vs scl+V, in early stages (on ca 2600 utterances)

  • Result:

NO subj-clitic+Nonfinite form

summary 2l1 acquisition sw fr
Summary 2L1 acquisition (Sw+Fr)
  • Initially no evidence for INFL
  • Later, evidence for INFL: Scl+finite verbs, aux, mod (PC, FutPr)
  • >> Structure building
  • No incorrect use of scl+nonfinite forms
why interesting
Why interesting?
  • Bilingual daycare, bilingual schools
  • The age factor
  • If Critical Period, when does it stop?

puberty (Lenneberg); 6-7 ys (Rottweiler & Kroffke, Tracy & Thoma); 3-4 ys (Meisel, Unsworth). Depends on phenomena? on language?

  • If gradual decline (Montrul 2008), what declines?
previous studies on chl2 french
Previous studies on chL2 French
  • Meisel (to appear), children AO 3-4 years:

Many have nonfinite forms >> = adL2

  • Prévost 2004, children Kenny, Greg:

Nonfinite forms like in L1 acq

  • Prévost 2008, same children:

Few nonfinite forms (2.2 – 5.7%) >> = L1

>> contradictions!

present study swedish french child l2
Present study:(Swedish >) French Child L2
  • Children: RACHEL, PATRICK, VIOLA, VALENTINA, HANNES, from LFSL Stockholm (see Granfeldt, Schlyter & Kihlstedt 2007)
  • L1 Swedish, L2 French
  • Age of Onset 3;4 to 6;6 years
  • Levels defined in Mean Length of Utterance (MLU) and VocD/10:
development cl2 children mlu vocd 10 arlette 2l1 rachel patrick viola hannes valentine
Development cL2 children - MLU + VocD/10(Arlette 2L1), Rachel, Patrick, Viola, Hannes, Valentine
nonfinite forms in cl2 from very early
Nonfinite forms in cL2 from very early

Patrick 6;1 years, input 7 m

*INV: regarde, qu+est+ce+qu' elle fait avec la fleur ?

‘look what she does with the flower’

*CHI: il [/] il [/] il &pernde[= peint] .

‘he he he paint.INF’

Hannes 7;1 ys, input 7 m

*CHI: et le chien qui &oua [?= voit] et [/]

‘and the dog who sees’

*CHI: et # il # prendre # le # chat # dans # euh ça .

‘and he take.INF the cat in that’

comparison between groups swedish french in earliest stages
Comparison between groupsSwedish > French in earliest stages
  • Nonfinite forms in finite contexts

(Lexical Verbs)

  • adL2: around 30% below 8m exp
  • (2)L1: 0 % continously
  • chL2: around 23% at 7 m exp

but rapidly reach 0%

>> these chL2 more like adL2 than L1

previous proposals for chl2
Previous proposals for chL2
  • Meisel: Fundamental Difference Hypothesis, Critical Period for grammar ends ca 3-4 years, then chL2 (French) = AdL2
previous proposals for adl2 acq
Previous proposals for adL2 acq
  • adL2 learners have acquired INFL, COMP etc through their L1, and have access to them in L2 (Schwartz, White,…)
  • Cf Perdue fortc
  • [les apprenants adultes] maîtrisent la manière dont la finitude est exprimée dans leur L1 et leur tâche d'apprentissage consiste (principalement) à découvrir de nouveaux moyens linguistiques pour exprimer ce concept.
our proposal for cl2 granfeldt schlyter thomas
Our proposal for cL2 (Granfeldt, Schlyter, Thomas)
  • We know that children acquire the entire syntactic structure at about 3 – 4 years, i.e. VP > INFL > COMP
  • HYP: Those children who have acquired INFL+COMP before the L2 acquisition starts, will develop L2 French like adult L2 learners – not because of age but because of previous development
  • These chL2 learners have access to the corresponding cognitive categories (Schlyter forthc)
  • chL2 or adL2 learners resort to default forms in the L2 to express these functional / cognitive categories (Thomas forthc)
thank you merci
  • Thanks also to
  • LFSL school
  • Sylvie and Anne
  • The children and their parents
  • The Magnus Bergwall Foundation
  • Bartning, I. & Schlyter, S. (2004) “Itinéraires acquisitionnels et stades de développement en français L2”. French Language Studies. 14(3): 281-299
  • Granfeldt, J. (2003) L’Acquisition des Catégories Fonctionnelles. Étude comparative du développement du DP français chez des enfants et des apprenants adultes. Etudes romanes de Lund, 67. Institut d'Etudes romanes de Lund, Université de Lund. Doctoral dissertation.
  • Granfeldt, Schlyter & Kihlstedt 2007: ” French in cL2, 2L1 and L1 in pre-school children ” PERLES 24, SOL, Lund
  • Lardiere, D. (1998) “Case and Tense in the ‘fossilized’ steady state”. Second Language Research 14: 1-26.
  • Meisel, J.M. (1994) “Getting FAT: Finiteness, agreement and tense in early grammars”. In J.M. Meisel (ed.), Bilingual First Language Acquisition (pp. 89-129). Amsterdam: Benjamins.
  • Meisel, J.M. (2008) “Child second language acquisition or successive first language acquisition?” In B. Haznedar & E. Gavruseva (eds.) Current Trends in Child Second Language Acquisition: A Generative Perspective. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
  • Meisel, J.M. forthc : ”Age of onset in successive acquisition of bilingualism: effects on grammatical development.”
  • Montrul,S. 2008: Incomplete Acquisition in Bilingualism. Re-examining the Age Factor. Benjamins
  • Pierce, A.E. (1992) Language Acquisition and Syntactic Theory: A Comparative Analysis of French and English Child Grammars. Dordrecht, Boston and London: Kluwer.
references cont
References, cont.
  • Prévost, P. (2004b) “The semantic and aspectual properties of child L2 root infinitives”. In P.Prévost & J. Paradis (eds.) The Acquisition of French in Different Contexts (pp. 305-331). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
  • Prévost, P. 2008: ”Knowledge of morphology and syntax in early adult L2 French: Evidence for the Missing Surface Inflection Hypothesis”. In: Liceras, J., Zobl, H. & Goodluck, H. (eds): The role of Formal Features in Second Language Acquisition. Erlbaum
  • Schlyter, S. (1993): ”The weaker language in bilingual Swedish-French children”. In: Hyltenstam,K. & Å.Viberg (eds): Progression & Regression in Language. Cambridge Univ. Press
  • Schlyter, S. (2003) : "Development of verb morphology and finiteness in children and adults acquiring French." in: Dimroth,C. & Starren, M. (eds): Information structure, linguistic structure, and the dynamics of learner language (Benjamins, Studies in Bilingualism), pp 15-45.
  • Schlyter, S. (2005): “Adverbs and functional categories in L1 and L2 acquisition of French”. in J.M. Dewaele (ed.) Focus on French as a Foreign Language: Multidisciplinary Approaches. Multilingual Matters. p. 36-62.
  • Schlyter, S. (submitted 2008). ”Input, cognitive-linguistic development, and rate of acquisition.” Comment on Target paper by J.M.Meisel, in: Zeitschrift für Sprachwissenschaft.
  • Schlyter, S. & Bartning, I. (2005) ”L’accord sujet-verbe en français L2 parlé ». In J. Granfeldt & S. Schlyter (eds.) Acquisition et production de la morphologie flexionnelle. Actes du « Festival de la morphologie », mars 2005 à Lund. PERLES 20 (Petites Études Romanes de Lund, Extra Seriem)
  • Thomas, A. forthc (Doctoral dissertation, Univ. Lund)
  • White, L. 2003: Second Language Acquisition and Universal Grammar. Cambrigde U.P