VP structures

Learners’ early word combinations reflect the availability of an elementary structural domain, the verb phrase (VP). The constructions are categorial-thematic in that they express the predicate-argument structures specified in the lexicon (cf. Radford 1990; Berent 1996).

VP structures in L1 acquisition. As grammatical processes that would constrain word order in full blown grammars run vacuous in VP grammars the order of elements may vary (Ouhalla 1991; Tracy 1991: 402f.). However, most scholars agree in the observation of a preference for the verb final order by children acquiring German as their mother tongue as illustrated in example (396). Note also that negators appear in the left-peripheral position (cf. (397) which can be taken as an indication that elements remain inside the VP at this stage.

VP structures in L2 acquisition. The position of the verb in the early utterances of child and adult L2 learners of German, in contrast, reflects the order of their respective L1 languages (i.e. OV in the case of (398) produced by a Korean L1 speaker). These learners are confronted with the task of restructuring the head- edness for the VP as is explained in the next section.

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