Journal of Linguistics

Research Article

Feature-marking in the L2 development of deverbal compounds fn1

a1 Georgetown University
a2 University of Durham


This study focuses on the development of complex word formation in L2 acquisition. We examine experimentally elicited data on English deverbal synthetic compounding (such as toe-painter) by native Spanish speakers and conclude that: (a) development proceeds in stages which clearly reflect UG-constrained L1 influence; (b) nontargetlike productions (e.g. painter-toes) show attempts to spell out the grammatical features associated with functional categories in deverbal compounding; though nontargetlike, they are nonetheless consistent with the compound's required feature-marking; (c) such attempts implicate the early existence in the Interlanguage of those functional heads and their projections in the (lexical) syntax; i.e., the absence of the correct phonological form cannot be taken to imply lack of knowledge of morphosyntactic features and their corresponding phrase structure.

(Received December 21 1995)
(Revised November 5 1996)


Author's address: Department of Linguistics, Georgetown University, Washington, DC 20057, U.S.A. E-mail:
Author's address: University of Durham, Department of Linguistics & English Language, Elvet Riverside II, New Elvet, Durham DH1 3JT, U.K. E-mail:

fn1 Earlier versions of this paper were presented at Second Language Research Forum, Concordia and McGill Universities (6–9 October 1994) and the Boston University Conference on Language Development (4–6 November 1994). We are indebted to members of the NorthEast Language Acquisition Group (NELAG) for their constructive criticisms and help: Roger Maylor, Ianthi Tsimpli, Martha Young-Scholten, and especially Ute Bohnacker, Belma Haznedar, Isa Muxí, Bernadette Plunkett and Dan Robertson. For discussion (as well as questions we can't yet answer) on a variety of aspects relevant to this paper, we thank: Bob Beard, Elena Benedicto, Hagit Borer, Héctor Campos, Joe Emonds, Lynn Eubank, S. J. Hannahs, Teun Hoekstra, Dawn MacLaughlin, Alec Marantz, Bill McClure, Silvina Montrul, Cathy O'Connor, Ian Roberts, Andy Spencer, Maggie Tallerman, Margaret Thomas and Lydia White. We alone are responsible for flaws and inaccuracies, however.