Verbal Inflections in L2 Child Narratives

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Kristin Kersten

Verbal Inflections in L2 Child Narratives. A Study of Lexical Aspect and Grounding

ISBN 978-3-86821-185-6, 206 S., kt., € 21,50 (2009)

Once upon a time there was a little boy, a dog and a frog. The little boy has found the frog ehm beside a lake and he wants to ehm have the frog forever. And he put the frog in a glass. And one night when the little boy and the dog was sleeping, the frog jumped out of the glass and jumped out of the window. Next morning when the little boy woke up, he wants to say his frog hello, but he doesn't found his frog. He ehm the frog wasn't no longer in the glass. He don't knows where it was. The little boy looks in his shoe, and the little dog looked in the glass and then the little boy runs to the window and shouted: "Frog, where are you?" (Eric, Grade 2)

Variation in verbal morphology, as seen in the above excerpt from a child's L2 retelling of the well-known "Frog Story" (Frog, Where Are You? Mayer 1969), is a phenomenon which has been the object of linguistic research for a long time. Two competing sets of predictions have been put forth to account for the distribution of verbal inflections in learner language: The Aspect Hypothesis posits that learners predominantly use inflections to indicate categories of lexical aspect, while the Discourse Hypothesis claims that they are rather used to differentiate foreground from background in narratives.

Drawing on a corpus of more than sixty L2 narrations collected in a German-English immersion elementary school, this longitudinal study analyzes the interaction of lexical aspect and discourse grounding. The results confirm both predictions and show more clearly than previous research in what way both effects can interact with each other. At the same time, the data illustrates vividly the linguistic creativity of the young learners, and it gives ample testimony to the efficiency of language learning in immersion programs.

Buchvorschau / Inhaltsverzeichnis (pdf)