Stellenbosch Papers in Linguistics Plus

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L1 influence in the L2 acquisition of isiXhosa verb placement by English and Afrikaans adolescents

Shona Lombard, Simone Conradie


This paper reports on an investigation into the possibility of first language (L1) transfer in the initial stages of the second language (L2) acquisition of isiXhosa by adolescent L1 speakers of Afrikaans and English, respectively. Four hypotheses about the initial state of L2 acquisition are (i) the Full Transfer hypothesis (Schwartz and Sprouse 1994, 1996; White 1989, 2003), (ii) the Minimal Trees hypothesis (Vainikka and Young-Scholten 1994, 1996), (iii) the Initial Hypothesis of Syntax (Platzack 1996) and (iv) the No Transfer hypothesis (Clahsen and Muysken 1986). A study was conducted to test the different predictions made by these hypotheses regarding verb placement by beginner learners of isiXhosa; data were collected by means of both a sentence completion and a grammaticality judgement task. It is argued that the results of the study are only compatible with the Full Transfer hypothesis. The implications of the results of this investigation for L2 teaching in a multilingual environment are also briefly discussed.

Keywords: second language acquisition, transfer, isiXhosa, verb placement

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