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Postverbal subjects at the interfaces in Spanish and Italian learners of L2 English: a corpus analysis

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Chapter Summary

The purpose of this article is to characterise the production of postverbal subjects in two ICLE subcorpora (Italian and Spanish). The question has been dealt with before in the literature with emphasis on the production of ngrammatical inversion structures in L2 English of speakers from a variety of L1s, but in quite a scattered, unsystematic and rather intuitive fashion. Our approach seeks to identify the conditions under which learners produce inverted subjects. Based on previous research findings and our review of the theoretical literature, we hypothesise that for Spanish and Italian learners of L2 English, there is a tendency for subject inversion to occur when: the verb is unaccusative (H1), the subject is long or “heavy” (H2), and the subject is new (or relatively new) information or “focus” (H3). While H1 has found confirmation in the L2 literature, H2 and H3 have, to our knowledge, been untested and the facts they describe gone unnoticed in previous research. Our results show that the three conditions are met in the writing of Spanish and Italian L2 speakers of English, despite errors in the syntactic encoding of the structures concerned. Thus, a full account of the production of inverted subjects in L2 English must look at properties which operate at (i) the lexicon-syntax interface, (ii) the syntaxphonology interface, and (iii) the syntax-discourse interface.



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