Southern African Linguistics and Applied Language Studies

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Default, non-default, markedness and complexity in the L2 English word stress competence of L1 speakers of Setswana

Wim Zonneveld


In the Principles and Parameters approach, parameters capture variation: languages do not differ randomly but along well-defined lines. Parameters typically take the form of a binary choice, such as yes/no or a similar option. In acquisition, a parameter is assumed to have a default setting as a starting point, which is maintained as long as it is not successfully contradicted by counter-evidence; when the latter happens the non-default value appears. Parameter setting to non-default proceeds from subset to superset languages. In syllable structure and using tree notation, development implies the introduction of marked structure, with structural complexity. The second half of the paper focuses on second language acquisition, where parameters (can) undergo re-setting. The discussion readdresses the results of two previous experimental investigations into the second language abilities of speakers of Setswana regarding English word stress, by Van der Pas, Wissing and Zonneveld (2000) and Van Rooy (2002). It concentrates on ‘extrametricality’ (lack of stress on final syllables), showing first that it seems to depend on syllable structure properties, and second, that in an apparent-time interpretation of the earlier results, development in L2 English stress acquisition regarding extrametricality takes place in a subset to superset manner – but not necessarily going from a less to a more complex structure, but apparently the other way around.

Southern African Linguistics and Applied Language Studies 2010, 28(4): 375–391

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