L1 transfer under language processing constraint: L2 acquisition of Chinese wh-questions

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    The present empirical study investigates L1 transfer from the language processability perspective, using Chinese wh-question as the test structure. According to the Developmentally Moderated Transfer Hypothesis (Pienemann, Di Biase, Kawaguchi and H�kansson 2005, henceforth DMTH), L1 transfer is constrained by processability of the L2 material, hence, it is �sensitive to the developmental state of the learner�s language� (Pienemann et al. 2005, p.111). As the Chinese wh-question is in-situ, it is hypothesized that L2 learners of Chinese will acquire it at the same time as they acquire the canonical structure. On the other hand, the canonical order is lower on the processability-based acquisition hierarchy than the English wh-question where the wh-word is fronted. It is therefore hypothesized, based on the DMTH, that the English wh-question structure will not be transferred into L2 Chinese. Three longitudinal oral data corpora from adult L1 English learners of Chinese were analyzed. Not a single wh-front question appeared in the data. The finding supports the DMTH and confirms that the processing skill of the L2 learner is one of the crucial elements in determining the presence and absence of L1 transfer.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)55-70
    JournalJournal of the Chinese Language Teachers Association (JCLTA)
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2013


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