Steffi Winkler, Humboldt University Berlin
On the triggering effect of negation in the acquisition of finiteness in German L1 and L2:
A quantitative analysis
The present paper deals with the influence of the acquisition of sentential negation on the acquisition of the category of finiteness in German as a first and as a second language.
Previous empirical work on the L2 acquisition of Germanic as well as of Romance languages (Dietrich & Grommes 1998, Becker 2000, Perdue, Benazzo & Giuliano 2002, Guiliano 2004) has shown that there is a systematic correlation between the marking of finiteness and the placement of the negator in early learner varieties. Within a functional framework, this correlation can be explained by the learners’ strategy to express scopal relations of functional as well as of lexical elements by the sequential ordering of these elements within their utterances. Additionally, Dietrich & Grommes (1998) found out, that the marking of finiteness is clearly preferred in negated utterances as compared to utterances without a negator (see table 1 next page).
Against the background of these findings I analysed the Caroline corpus, an extensive longitudinal study of the L1 acquisition of a monolingual German girl, available from the CILDES-database (see MacWinney 1995). The results of my analysis show that also in German L1 the marking of finiteness is realised much more often in negated contexts (see table 2 next page, examples of negated and non-negated utterances in Caroline are given below in (1) and (2), respectively):
(1) a. hab nich Eis 2;00.04
have-1Sg not icecream
b. Klaus will nicht 2;01.23
Claus want-3Sg not
(2) a. ich Schlange haben 2;01.23
I snake have
b. Mami auch helfen 2;02.06
Mommy also help
Based on the existing empirical evidence I argue that sentential negation – represented by the operator NEG – functions as a trigger for the establishment of the category of finiteness in both the acquisitional processes of German L1 and L2.
Finally, the developmental path for the investigated phenomena is presented for L1 and L2: In a first step, it comes to the establishment of a position for operators in the learner language. These operators constitute a closed class within the learner system. Typical items of the operator class are NEG and finite forms of modals and auxiliaries, that can be interpreted as precursors of the finiteness operator FIN. In a second step, the operators are related to each other. NEG is integrated into the child’s and the adult’s utterances. This results in a hierarchical structure with a fixed position for NEG. Finally, the position for the finiteness operator FIN is worked out in a third step and the target-like regularities for the expression of finiteness are acquired.
The striking similarities exhibited in both developmental processes give rise to the more general idea that first and second language acquisition are guided by the same underlying mechanism(s).
Table 1: Development of finiteness marking in negated and non-negated utterances in German L2
(Dietrich & Grommes 1998: 200)
Table 2: Development of finiteness marking in negated and non-negated utterances in German L1
Becker, A. (2000): The
acquisition of negation and the acquisition of finiteness. Manuscript.
Dietrich, R. & Grommes, P. (1998): ‚nicht‘. Reflexe seiner
Bedeutung und Syntax im Zweitspracherwerb.
Giuliano, P. (2004): La négation
linguistique dans l´acquisition d´une langue étrangère.
Un débat conclu?
MacWhinney, B. (2000): The
CHILDES project. Tools for Analysing Talk. Third Edition. Mahwah, NJ:
Perdue, C., Benazzo, S. &
Giuliano, P. (2002): When finiteness gets marked: the relation between