Bound variable, split antecedent and ellipsis interpretations in L2 Portuguese

implications for L2 acquisition theories

Jason Rothman, Michael Iverson, Tiffany Judy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Recently, in light of minimalist assumptions, some partial UG-accessibility accounts to adult second language acquisition have made a distinction between the post-critical period ability to acquire new features based on their LF-interpretability (i.e. interpretable vs. uninterpretable features) (HAWKINS, 2005; HAWKINS; HATTORI, 2006; TSIMPLI; MASTROPAVLOU, 2007; TSIMPLI; DIMITRAKOPOULOU, 2007). The Interpretability Hypothesis (TSIMPLI; MASTROPAVLOU, 2007; TSIMPLI; DIMITRAKOPOULOU, 2007) claims that only uninterpretable features suffer a post-critical period failure and, therefore, cannot be acquired. Conversely, Full Access approaches claim that L2 learners have full access to UG’s entire inventory of features, and that L1/L2 differences obtain outside the narrow syntax. The phenomenon studied herein, adult acquisition of the Overt Pronoun Constraint (OPC) (MONTALBETTI, 1984) and inflected infinitives in non-native Portuguese, challenges the Interpretability Hypothesis insofar as it makes the wrong predictions for what is observed. The present data demonstrate that advanced learners of L2 Portuguese acquire the OPC and the syntax and semantics of inflected infinitives with native-like accuracy. Since inflected infinitives require the acquisition of new uninterpretable ϕ-features, the present data provide evidence in contra Tsimpli and colleagues' Interpretability Hypothesis.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)261-300
Number of pages40
JournalEstudos da lingua(gem)
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Overt Pronoun Constraint
  • Inflected Infinitives
  • L2 acquisition
  • Adult UG-accessibility

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