This paper examines article use in the L2-English of adult and child speakers of Russian, an article-less language. In earlier work on articles in adult L2-English, Ionin, Ko and Wexler (2004) proposed that speakers of article-less L1s fluctuate between dividing English articles on the basis of definiteness vs. specificity, as a result of direct access to semantic universals. The present paper examines whether similar fluctuation is present for child L2-English learners. Results of an elicitation study with L1-Russian child and adult learners of English show that both groups of learners exhibit sensitivity to definiteness as well as specificity. At the same time, it is found that the behavior of child L2-learners is more consistent with natural language data than that of adult L2-learners. It is proposed that both children and adults have domain-specific knowledge of semantic universals, but that adults, unlike children, also use explicit strategies. This proposal is considered in light of the literature on explicit vs. implicit knowledge.
(Received October 03 2007)
(Revised May 21 2008)
(Accepted July 12 2008)
c1 Address for correspondence: Tania Ionin, Department of Linguistics, University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, 4080 Foreign Languages Building, 707 South Mathews Ave., Urbana, IL 61801, USA firstname.lastname@example.org
* We would like to thank our undergraduate research assistants, Jomeline Balatayo, Erin Bardales, Anna Bokarius, Erin Kunkle and Matthew Wallace for their help with the data collection and analysis in the U.S., and students at Orel State University for their help with the data collection in Russia. We are grateful to William Rutherford for allowing us the use of his cloze test for measuring L2-learners' proficiency. The research reported here is supported by NSF grant # BCS-0444088 (Principal Investigator: María Luisa Zubizarreta) and by a University of Southern California undergraduate research grant. We are grateful to Silvina Montrul and to three anonymous reviewers for comments on an earlier version of this paper.