Subjacency Violations in Second Language Acquisition: Some Evidence from Chinese Mandarin Speakers of L2 English

Xia Dai


The literature review shows that many previous studies have used Subjacency to test the availability of Universal
Grammar (UG) in second language acquisition. Schachter (1989) claimed that L2 learners do not have access to UG
principles, while Hawkins and Chan (1997) suggested that L2 learners had partial availability of UG, for they found
there was a strong difference between the elementary L2 learners and the advanced L2 learners in judging the
ungrammaticality of Subjacency violations; that is, the elementary L2 learners owned the highest accuracy. Under
the hypothesis of partially availability of UG in second language acquisition, L2 learners are only able to acquire the
properties instantiated in their L1s. Although they may accept violations of universal constraints, it is only at face
value; rather the L2 learners develop different syntactic representations from the native speakers. This study has been
undertaken as a follow-up study of Hawkins and Chan (1997), and tested on L1 Mandarin speakers of L2 English in
judging the grammaticality of their Subjacency violations. The results of the Grammaticality Judgement Test show
that the accuracy of Chinese speakers in judgement increased with English proficiency and that they rejected
resumptives inside islands as a repair. Contrary to the previous findings, this study provides evidence that UG is
available in adult second language acquisition.

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World Journal of English Language
ISSN 1925-0703(Print)  ISSN 1925-0711(Online)

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