Interface vulnerability and knowledge of the subjunctive/indicative distinction with negated epistemic predicates in L2 Spanish

Michael Iverson, Paula Kempchinsky, Jason Rothman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Much recent research in SLA is guided by the hypothesis of L2 interface vulnerability (see Sorace 2005). This study contributes to this general project by examining the acquisition of two classes of subjunctive complement clauses in L2 Spanish: subjunctive complements of volitional predicates (purely syntactic) and subjunctive vs. indicative complements with negated epistemic matrix predicates, where the mood distinction is discourse dependent (thus involving the syntax–discourse interface). We provide an analysis of the volitional subjunctive in English and Spanish, suggesting that English learners of L2 Spanish need to access the functional projection Mood P and an uninterpretable modal feature on the Force head available to them from their formal English register grammar, and simultaneously must unacquire the structure of English for-to clauses. For negated epistemic predicates, our analysis maintains that they need to revalue the modal feature on the Force head from uninterpretable to interpretable, within the L2 grammar.With others (e.g. Borgonovo & Prévost 2003; Borgonovo, Bruhn de Garavito & Prévost 2005) and in line with Sorace’s (2000, 2003, 2005) notion of interface vulnerability, we maintain that the latter case is more difficult for L2 learners, which is borne out in the data we present. However, the data also show that the indicative/subjunctive distinction with negated epistemics can be acquired by advanced stages of acquisition, questioning the notion of obligatory residual optionality for all properties which require the integration of syntactic and discourse information.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)135-163
Number of pages29
JournalEUROSLA yearbook
Volume8
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2008
Externally publishedYes

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