Bilingualism: Language and Cognition


The representation of English articles in second language grammars: Determiners or adjectives?*


a1 University of York


An article-choice study involving L1 Mandarin/L2 English bilinguals is reported. It tested two recent accounts on the representation of English articles in L2 grammars (where L1 has no articles). The Fluctuation Hypothesis (Ionin, Ko and Wexler, 2004) predicts that L2 speakers will have full access to UG, but will fluctuate between the settings of the postulated Article Choice Parameter; article choices will be influenced by [±specificity]. The syntactic misanalysis account, on which L2 articles are treated as adjectives (Trenkic, 2007), predicts that article choices will be influenced by the objective identifiability of referents. By discussing the notion of specificity and emphasising problems in its operationalisation, the current study introduces an innovative design to reveal that what was previously observed as the effect of specificity on L2 article choices (full UG access) is better described as an effect of the stated/denied familiarity with the referent (an extra-linguistic factor).

(Received April 03 2006)

(Revised September 30 2006)

(Accepted October 19 2006)


c1 Address for correspondence: Department of Educational Studies, University of York, Heslington, York YO10 5DD, UK


* This research was supported by the University of York Vice-Chancellor's Anniversary Lectureship Award to the author, which is gratefully acknowledged. Earlier versions of this paper were presented at a meeting of the Philological Society in London, a seminar to the Department of Language and Linguistics at the University of Essex, and EUROSLA 16 in Antalya. I would like to thank the audiences at these meetings, the three reviewers and the editors for constructive and helpful comments.