Contrasting opposite polarity in Germanic and Romance languages: Verum focus and affirmative particles in native speakers and advanced L2 learners
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[S.l. : s.n.]
MPI Series in Psycholinguistics ; 84
Number of pages
iii, 236 p.
Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen, 20 januari 2014
Promotores : Levinson, S.C., Dimroth, C., Braun, B.
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SubjectInteractional Foundations of Language; Language in Society
This dissertation investigated the expression of affirmative polarity contrast (e.g., speaker B: In my picture the child is eating the candies following after In my picture the child is not eating the candies uttered by speaker A) from a typological and an acquisitional perspective, framed in the finiteness-assertion hypothesis proposed by Klein (1998, 2006). As recently suggested, polarity contrast plays a crucial role for common ground management in German and Dutch but not in the Romance languages Italian and French (Dimroth, Andorno, Benazzo, & Verhagen, 2010). It is not by accident that the grammar of Germanic languages is equipped with a rich set of linguistic means, namely Verum focus - an accent on the finite verb (e.g., Höhle, 1992) - and affirmative particles (e.g., the Dutch particle wel) for the expression of polarity contrast. A further research question links such typological differences to learnability problems in second language acquisition (L2). As shown in previous studies, even at higher levels of proficiency, learners are not able to encode information structure in a target-like way (von Stutterheim, 2003). In this dissertation we provided experimental evidence of polarity contrast, by adopting the same task procedure in German, Dutch, French and Italian and in L2 learners. Results showed that for German and Dutch speakers marking polarity contrast is crucial for common ground management. By contrast, even though French and Italian are equipped with assertion/polarity markings (e.g. Verum focus is produced occasionally), speakers do not choose these options in the contexts tested here; conceivably, Romance speakers feel that highlighting the contrast on the relevant operators might result in a “too assertive” pragmatic effect. The analysis on the L2 acquisition data supports these cross-linguistic differences. Results showed that learners tend to look for means in their L2 which allow them to build up L1-like discourse information organisation, and thus demonstrated a “discourse accent” (cf. von Stutterheim, 2003)
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