Is L1 transfer operative at the syntax-discourse interface? The acquisition of pragmatics of subjects by the advanced Turkish learners of Korean and Japanese speakers

Çınar O.

21th International Conference on Turkic Linguistics, Eskişehir, Turkey, 2 - 04 August 2021, pp.162-163

  • Publication Type: Conference Paper / Summary Text
  • City: Eskişehir
  • Country: Turkey
  • Page Numbers: pp.162-163


Null and overt subject distribution has been claimed to be the locus of syntax-discourse interface in null subject languages since the choice to use null vs. overt subject is governed by certain discursive properties (e.g. Belletti et al., 2007). Drawing on this, the study investigates the acquisition of null and overt subjects in L2 Turkish at the syntax-discourse interface in order to understand whether L1 transfer operates in the domain that needs the mapping of syntactic information on the discursive knowledge. There are two groups of participants in the study. The control group participants were adult native speakers of Turkish (n=26). The learner group participants were advanced Turkish learners of adult Korean (n=10) and Japanese (n=17) speakers. These participants had attended Turkish language courses and received a certificate of Turkish at the advanced level. Since Turkish, Korean, and Japanese are null subject languages, the very same constraints that regulate the null vs. overt subject distribution hold in these languages. Therefore, successful acquisition of the given constraints might be interpreted over Full Transfer approaches (e.g. Schwartz & Sprouse, 1996). In order to attain this aim, contextualized grammaticality judgement task (CGJT), adapted from Rothman (2007; 2009), was employed to fetch data. In this task, participants were asked to judge whether the contextualized sentences they read was pragmatically odd or not. The CGJT was framed by 4 conditions (for each condition n=4). The pragmatic constraints on the use of null and overt subjects were not violated in the first two conditions. However, the latter two conditions violated the discursive constraints (topic continuity vs. topic shift), rendering unacceptable null and overt subject constructions. The results of the CGJT revealed that the L2 participants were insensitive to the pragmatics of null vs. overt subject distribution. This finding is in line with the claim that the properties at the syntax-discourse interface cannot be fully acquired (Interface Hypothesis; Sorace & Filiaci, 2006; Sorace, 2011). The vulnerability of the discursive constraints suggests that Korean and Japanese speakers failed to transfer the discursive rules or categories in their interlanguage. Therefore, one can argue that syntax-discourse interface is vulnerable irrespective of the L1 and L2 pairs (e.g. Margaza & Bel 2006, Lozano, 2018).

Keywords: Null and overt subjects, discursive constraints, topic continuity, topic shift, L2 Turkish, Korean and Japanese speakers, Interface Hypothesis