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11th PALA International Symposium Processability Approaches to Language Acquisition (PALA), 12-13 September, 2011 PT: State of the

Art and the Future

Lexical and syntactic development in English as a second language: A crosssectional study

Satomi Kawaguchi University of Western Sydney

Please cite as

Kawaguchi, S. (2011). Lexical and syntactic development in English as a second language: A cross-sectional study. Presentation delivered at 11th PALA Symposium-Processability Approaches to Language Acquisition. Innsbruck, Austria, September 12-13, 2011.
Copyright Satomi Kawaguchi 2011

Aim of the study

This study investigates the acquisition of canonical and noncanonical mapping in ESL within the framework of Processability Theory (Pienemann, Di Biase & Kawaguchi 2005). It also looks at the relationship between lexical and syntactic learning. In particular, it investigates : 1) Acquisition of canonical and non-canonical mapping (including verbs of intrinsically non-canonical mapping) based on the Lexical Mapping Hypothesis;
1) the relationship between learners lexical size as measured by Nation and Bagler (2007) Vocabulary Level Test and the acquisition of canonical and non-canonical mapping.

Following LFG (e.g., Bresnan 2001), PT believes that grammatical constructions are lexically restricted in L2 learning (cf. Pinker 1984, Tomasello 1992 in L1 acquisition).

Verbs are important as they lead to the development of complex sentences

Lexical Mapping Hypothesis

This hypothesis is based on non-default mapping of semantic argument roles onto grammatical structure (technically association between argument- and functional-structures).
In second language acquisition learners initially map the most prominent role available onto SUBJ (i.e., Canonical Mapping).

The L2 learner gradually learns how to attribute prominence to a particular thematic role as well as how to de-focus or suppress a thematic role e.g. suppressing the Agent role and promoting the Patient role to SUBJ rather than mapping canonically Agent onto SUBJ.

Greater processing load with Non-canonical Mapping

Evidence from brain activities

Yokoyama et. al. (2006a): three types of lexical processing in Japanese L1

Noun < Unmarked Active Verb < Inflected Passive Verb (the left middle temporal gyrus LMTG)
..verbs have richer lexical information than nouns, including information relating to subcategorization, argument structure, thematic structure, and so on, all of which are critical to sentence processing (p1309)

Greater processing load with Non-canonical Mapping

Evidence from brain activities

Yokoyama et. al. (2006b): active / passive sentences in Japanese L1 English L2 (late bilingual) Active sentence < Passive counterpart (both L1 and L2) significant interaction between sentence type (active Vs. passive) and language (Japanese Vs. passive)
late bilinguals use language-related regions of the brain differently when processing structurally complex sentences in L1 Vs. L2 (p575).

Research Questions
1) Do Japanese L1 English L2 learners acquire non-canonical mapping after canonical mapping regardless of different types of verb (e.g., intrinsically non-canonical verbs, passive construction)? 2) Is there a relationship between learners lexical size (Nation and Bagler ibid.) and acquisition of canonical and non-canonical mapping.

Canonical and non-canonical mapping investigated in the study

Canonical Non-canonical

Intrinsically non-canonical Canonical transitive Intransitve: Unaccusative Transitive: Psych Verb (OBJ experiencer (OE))

Special structures Passive* Causative,

(* including adjectival & stative passive)

These constructions allow English speakers to impart different perspectives on discourse world situations (Payne 2011)

Thematic Hierarchy
Thematic hierarchy (Bresnan 2001, 307)

Agent > Beneficiary > experiencer/goal > Instrument > Patient/Theme > Locative Canonical mapping Agent-like role is mapped on to SUBJ, Patient-like (or Theme-like) is mapped on to OBJ

1 Canonical Transitive
Agent > Beneficiary > Experiencer/goal > Instrument > Patient/Theme > Locative

Sleep <Experiencer> dogs sleep (around 18 hours a day)


(b) Transitive Break <Agent, Patient>

Agent SUBJ

I broke the stick

Patient OBJ

2. Intrinsically non-canonical transitive (lexical)

Agent > Beneficiary > Experiencer/goal > Instrument > Patient/Theme > Locative

(a) Intransitive Unaccusative Freeze <Theme> water freezes at 0 degree

c.f., Hirakawa 2003

(b) Psych Verb: OBJ Experiencer (OE) Please <Theme, Experiencer> His gifts please me (c.f. I like his gifts)

c.f., White 1998

3. non-canonical constructions (structural mapping): c.f., Kawaguchi 2007

(a) Passive The dog was kicked by Tom be kicked <Patient, Agent>
agent patient thematic roles



grammatical functions

The dog


word order

(b) Causative
Mapping of a-structure onto f-structure for the transitive causative sentence Mary makes Tom wash the car cause < [agent] [recipient patient]
SUBJ OBJ wash < [agent] [patient] >> a-structure

OBJ patient




kuruma [car]



1) Canonical Vs. intrinsically Non-canonical mapping

Canonical (Transitive )> > Intrinsically non-canonical Intransitive> > Intrinsically non-canonical Transitive 2) Canonical Vs. Non-canonical constructions Canonical Active > Passive > Causative
3) Lexical acquisition and syntactic acquisition

There is a positive relationship between lexical size and syntactic acquisition (lexical acquisition precedes the acquisition of syntax).

Research Design
a. Informants 22 Japanese L1 - English L2 (male 5, female 17), with a length of stay in Australia, ranging from 9 days to 27 years. Their age range is between 20 and 56 years (mean 31, SD 9.9). One native control (simultaneous bilingual first language speaker of English and Japanese): 18 year old.

b. Tasks 1) Production (translation) task

Most tasks utilised for acquisition of different types of verbs are either comprehension test or grammatical judgement. There are not many studies to look at PRODUCTIVE abilities in the field. A few studies utilised the fill-in-the bracket task and/or translation task to measure productive ability of different mappings.

Production (translation) task: Japanese -> English with time limitation (20 min. for 25 sentences) pen & paper (without eraser) (6 sentences involving ditransitive verbs are not used in this study)


The 19 verbs used in the translation production task

Canonical Canonical transitive Non-cannoical Intrinsically non- Intrinsically nonPassive canonical transitive canonical (including: adjectival & (Psych Verb: OBJ Intransitve stative passive experience (OE)) (Unaccusative) Please Confuse Shock Freeze Fall Fall from Kill (be killed) (Stative passive) Break (be broken) (In between stative and adjectival passive) Close (be closed) (Adjectival passive) Confuse (be confused) Interest (be interested) Surprise (be surprised)

Causative CausativePassive

Break Wash Kill Close Stop

Wash (make X wash Y) Work (be made to work)

All verbs are selected from 0-1K English frequency list except shock and confuse freeze is an alternating unaccusative; fall is a non-alternating unaccusative Unaccusative intransitives are non-canonical BUT Unergative intransitives are canonical. 18

Translation Task (answered by NS control)

1 I have an interest in Australian movies. 2 My dog broke my daughter's doll. I make the meals and my husband washes the dishes. 3 wash I make the meals and my husband washes the dishes. 4 wash 5 surprise I was surprised by my test mark. 6 kill Yamamoto's cat killed my bird! 7 receive Keiko-san received a presnt from Hiroshi. 8 report I have to report this accident to the police. 9 close I always close the shop door at 7. 10 fall The cat fell out of the tree. Yamada-san showed her vacation photos to everyone. 11 show 12 seem This watch seems expensive. 13 please Tom's present really pleased me! 14 close This shop's door is always closed. 15 confuse I was very confused upon hearing this news. 16 break This watch is broken. 17 fall The tree in the backyard has fallen. 18 wash My mum makes me wash the dishes. Ms. Yamada's explanation always confuses her 19 confuse students. 20 kill Tom was killed by Mary! 21 believe pass I believe my son will pass at university. 22 freeze Water freezes at 0 C. 23 stop The police stopped the car. 19 24 shock That plane crash shocked the world. 25 work My boss forces me to work til 8. interest break

2) Vocabulary size test (Nation 2001)

Vocabulary size shows significant correlation especially with receptive language abilities (i.e., reading and listening)
Band 1st 100 2nd 1000

Question including Verb (TOTAL 21 verbs /140)

3 verbs/10 questions 1 verbs

Question No. and question sentence 1. SEE: They saw it. 6. DRIVE: He drives fast. 7, 1. MAINTAIN: Can they maintain it? 2. RESTORE: It has been restored. 4, SCRUB: He is scrubbing it. 7. PAVE: It was paved. 8. DASH: They dashed over it. 9. ROVE: He couldn't stop roving. 10. ALLEGE: They alleged it. 2. WEEP: He wept. 4. HAUNT: The house is haunted. 8. PEEL: Shall I peel it?

3rd 1000 4th 1000 5thh 1000

5 verbs 1 verb 3 verbs

6th 1000 7th 1000 8th 1000 9th 1000 10th 1000 11th 1000 12th 1000 13th 1000 14th 1000

2 verbs 1 verb 1 verb 1 verb None 1 verb 1 verb None 1 verb

7. STRANGLE: He strangled her. 10. VEER: The car veered. 4. SHUDDER: The boy shuddered. 10. MUMBLE: He started to mumble. 6. PERTURB: I was perturbed.
1. EXCRETE: This was excreted recently. 8. IMPALE: He nearly got impaled. 4. AUGUR: It augured well.



(i) Lexical size test

Informant JA03 JA13 JA02 JA01 JA04 JA10 JA12 JA07 JA05 JA06 JA21 JA08 JA14 JA22 JA17 JA09 JA18 JA15 JA16 JA19 JA20 JA11 NS control Lexical size /14K 12.7 11.2 10.1 9.7 9.0 9.0 8.8 8.1 7.7 6.9 6.8 6.8 6.4 6.2 5.8 5.4 5.1 5.0 4.7 4.6 4.1 3.0 11.3 Top, Mid & Bottom three High High High

Middle Middle Middle Middle Middle

Low Low Low Low NS control


(ii) Argument mapping: Examples of Canonical structure

(H: JA 3)

Yamamoto's cat killed my bird!

Yamamoto's cat killed my bird.

(M: JA 22) Yamamoto's cat killed my bird.

(L: JA 11) Yamamoto's cat kill my bard

(L: JA 19)

Mr. YAMAMOT's cat was killed by may bird.


Examples: Non-canonical Intransitive (Unaccusative)

NS (H: JA13)

The tree in the backyard has fallen. A tree in a garden fell down.

(M: JA06) The tree felt in my garden.

(L:JA11) fall in down gerden tree.


Examples: Psych Verb

NS (H: JA3)

Ms. Yamada's explanation always confuses her students. Professor Yamada's explanation always confuses his students.

(M: JA22) The explanation of Teacher, Yamada is confused.

(L:JA19) YAMADA thecher's expreine was confuse to student

Examples: Passive

NS (H: JA03)

Tom was killed by Mary! Tom was killed by Mary.

(M: JA14) Tom was killed by Meary.

(L:JA16) Tom kill maly.


Examples: Causative

NS (H: JA03)

My mum makes me wash the dishes. My mother makes me wash the dishes every day.

(M: JA20) Everyday I wash dishes by my mother

(L:JA20) I am washed dishes by mother everyday.


Results: Canonical <Intransitive Unaccusative < Transitive Psych Verb (applying PTs emergence criterion)
Informant JA15 JA19 JA11 JA21 JA16 JA18 JA17 JA20 JA09 JA14 Lexical size /140 50 46 30 68 47 51 58 41 54 64

Top, Mid & Bottom three

Intransitive Canonical Tr (5) Unaccusative (3)

40% (?40%) 60% 80% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 33%* 33% 33% 33% 67% 67% 67% 100% 67% 100%

Psych V (3) 33% 0/3 0/3 1/?1/3 0/3 0/3 0/3 0/3 0/3 0/3

Low Low Middle Low

Low Middle

JA06 JA04 JA07 JA22 JA05 JA12 JA10 JA01 JA02 JA13 JA03 NS control

69 90 81 62 77 88 90 97 101 112 127 113

Middle (M3)
Middle (M1)

80% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100%

100% 100% 67% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100%

0/3 0/1(?)/*2 33% 33% 33% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 28


High (H3) High (H2) High (H1)

Results: Canonical < Passive < Causative

Informant JA16 JA19 JA11 Top, Mid & Lexical size /140 Bottom three 47 Low 46 Low (L1) 30 Low (L3) Canonical Tr (5) 40% (?40%) 60% 80% Passive (6) 0% 17% 17% Semantic fusion of a GF (2) 0/2 0/2 0/2

JA20 JA18 JA09 JA15 JA04 JA22

JA08 JA17

41 51 54 50 90 62
68 58

Low (L2)

Middle Middle (M3)

100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100%

100% 80%

33% 50% 50% 67% 67% 100%

33% * 67%

0/2 0/2 0/2 0/2 0/2 0/2

1/2 1/2

JA05 JA14 JA21 JA07 JA12 JA10 JA01 JA02 JA13 JA03 NS control

77 64 68 81 88 90 97 101 112 127 113

Middle (M1)
Middle Middle (M2)

80% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100%

50% 33% 83% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 83% 100% 83%

100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100%

High (H3) High (H2) High (H1)

* 1 canonical Tr stimulus translated as passive


Relationship between Lexical and syntactic acquisition

a. Canonical structure
Correct Mapping with Canonical Verbs
120 100






0 0 20 40 60 80 100 120 140 Lexical Size (x100)


Correct Mapping with Unaccusative (Int) & Psych V (Tr) (n=6)


Non-canonical mapping

80 60 40 20

Intrinsically (lexically) noncanonical verbs

0 20 40 60 80 100 120 140

Correct Mapping with Passive and Causative structure (n=8)



structurally non-canonical

60 40 20 0 0 -20 20 40 60 80 100 120 140


Results summary
1. (Canonical Vs. Non-canonical mapping) Acquisition follows canonical to non-canonical mapping. Canonical > Intransitive Unaccusative > Trans. Psych Verb Canonical > Passive > Causative (structural non-canonical mapping relates closer to developmental stages) 2. (lexical size and syntactic ability with different verb types) Only high vocabulary size (9 k or over) predicts the grammatical ability of producing all types of non-canonical mapping. Both middle and low lexical size groups showed problems with non-canonical mapping.

Productive ability relating to non-canonical mapping seems to be a good indicator of syntactic development. On the other hand, learners lexical size can only partly predict L2 learners syntactic development. This requires further cross-linguistic confirmation. From the learning and teaching point of view an awareness of the role of non-canonical mapping may help towards pushing development forwards.

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