Sujeewa Hettiarachchi and Acrisio Pires recently presented at two L2 conferences: (i) GALANA 6 (Generative Approaches to Language Acquisition in North America), held at the University of Maryland, College Park, and (ii) GASLA 6 (Generative Approaches to Second Language Acquisition), held at the University of Indiana, Bloomington. Their research explores the role of UG in L2 acquisition by investigating the acquisition of English wh-questions by L1 speakers of Sinhala. The title and abstract of their presentation are given below.
L2 Acquisition of Wh-features and Syntactic Constraints: Evidence for Full-Access Approaches
This paper investigates the L2 acquisition of wh-features and relevant constraints (Relativized Minimality and Subjacency) by Sinhala-English bilinguals in Sri Lanka. Using results from a scalar Grammaticality Judgment Task (GT) and a Truth Value Judgment Task (TVT), we argue that advanced adult L2 speakers of English successfully acquire subjacency/relativized minimality (superiority) constraints on wh-movement, providing evidence that they have knowledge of a so-called uninterpretable wh-Q feature that is taken to trigger overt wh-movement in English, despite the non-instantiation of overt wh-movement and the corresponding constraints in L1-Sinhala. Our results are not only consistent with other recent studies which report the successful adult L2 acquisition of new uninterpretable features in different grammatical domains (e.g., Foucart & Frenck-Mestre 2012; Campos, Pires & Rothman 2014) but also support Full Access to UG principles and constraints in adult L2 syntax (White 2003, Epstein et al 1996, Schwartz & Sprouse 1996), contra predictions of Representational Deficit Accounts in adult L2 acquisition (e.g., Hawkins & Hattori 2006; Tsimpli & Dimitrakopoulou 2007).