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Factoring out the parallelism effect in VP-ellipsis: English vs. Dutch contrasts

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JournalSecond Language Research
DatePublished - 1 Oct 2009
Issue number4
Number of pages41
Pages (from-to)427-467
Original languageEnglish


Previous studies, including Duffield and Matsuo (2001; 2002; 2009), have demonstrated second language learners’ overall sensitivity to a parallelism constraint governing English VP-ellipsis constructions: like native speakers (NS), advanced Dutch, Spanish and Japanese learners of English reliably prefer ellipsis clauses with structurally parallel antecedents over those with non-parallel antecedents. However, these studies also suggest that, in contrast to English native speakers, L2 learners’ sensitivity to parallelism is strongly influenced by other non-syntactic formal factors, such that the constraint applies in a comparatively restricted range of construction-specific contexts. This article reports a set of follow-up experiments — from both computer-based as well as more traditional acceptability judgement tasks — that systematically manipulates these other factors. Convergent results from these tasks confirm a qualitative difference in the judgement patterns of the two groups, as well as important differences between theoreticians’ judgements and those of typical native speakers. We consider the implications of these findings for theories of ultimate attainment in second language acquisition (SLA), as well as for current theoretical accounts of ellipsis.

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