Functional categories in the L2 acquisition of English Morpho-syntax : a longitudinal study of two Farsi-speaking children
This is a longitudinal case study of two Farsi-speaking children learning English: 'Bernard' and 'Melissa', who were 7;4 and 8;4 at the start of data collection. The research deals with the initial state and further development in the child second language (L2) acquisition of syntax regarding the presence or absence of functional categories, as well as the role and degree of L1 influence in this regard. Some studies in the field of child L1 acquisition are discussed to determine similarities or differences between child L1 and child L2 acquisition. Examining data collected from the children's spontaneous speech, the researcher's diaries and translation and other tasks over a period of 20 months, the competing claims of the two most prominent hypotheses about early L2 grammars are tested: Vainikka & Young-Scholten's (1996) Minimal Trees/Structure Building hypothesis and Schwartz & Sprouse's (1996) Full Transfer/Full Access hypothesis. Word order, use of rote-learned formulae, suppliance of copula/auxiliary be, modals, questions, case assignment, finiteness, presence of null subjects, subject-verb agreement, negation and tense marking are investigated, and the conclusion is reached that functional categories are absent at the initial state and that they emerge without the learners' reliance on their L1, consistent with Minimal Trees/Structure Building. A difference is observed between the two subjects regarding development of some aspects of verbal morphology, and standardized tests of intelligence, aptitude, verbal memory and phonological awareness show that processing speed and what can be described as 'verbalness' are important factors affecting the rate of development of these elements.