Verb placement in L3 French and L3 German. The role of language-internal factors in determining cross-linguistic influence from prior languages
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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This article explores cross-linguistic influence and the relationship between surface structure and underlying syntactic structure in L3 acquisition of verb placement in L1 Norwegian L2 English learners of L3 German or French, respectively. In these languages, verb placement varies systematically. Previous research has found transfer from both L1 and L2 in similar language combinations. Using an acceptability judgment task, we tested verb placement in non-subject-initial and subject-initial sentences. Findings indicate that L3 French learners performed better on non-subject-initial sentences compared to subject-initial sentences, whereas the opposite was the case in L3 German. We argue that our findings can be explained by a generative account of verb movement and are compatible with an analysis where verbs do not move, or do not move far enough, in the L3 learners’ underlying syntactic representation. Following the assumption that verb movement is a costly operation, we argue that the syntactic operation verb movement is constrained by principles of economy in L3 acquisition, and that economy plays a role in determining cross-linguistic influence in multilingual acquisition. Our account is compatible with a uniform analysis of the acquisition of verb movement in L1, L2 and L3, and underlines the qualitative similarities in different acquisition processes.