Written German competence at the onset of the study
Word order. At the onset of the data collection, Christa produces a relatively short text consisting of 20 propositions (while file 2 is equally short, the written texts are about three times as long as of file 3). Apart from SVX formats (cf. (614)), Christa produces some V3 constructions, in which adverbial temporal expressions appear in sentence-initial position (cf. example (615)), and one non-subject initial V2 sequence in which the subject is dropped (cf. (616)). However, the XVX construction in (616) remains an exception as this sentential format does not occur again in subsequent files. Example (617) illustrates the use of the complementer weil (‘because’) to combine two propositions. Sequences like these are indicative of Christa’s expression of complex causal and temporal relations despite her lack of the necessary structural means (note that the verb is dropped in the weil-introduced clause). Some sequences, however, remain opaque, as for example (599), a sequence following example (615), in which we learn that the frog climbs out of the jar. Christa produces two such sequences with an unclear meaning in this first file, which might reflect lexical gaps apart from an erroneous use of the copula.
Verb inflection. Christa produces finite main verb forms from the onset of the study. However, target-like forms alternate with target-deviant non-finite ones, a variation that can be observed until the final sample included in this study.
Examples (633)-(637) above and (619)-(620) below illustrate the diversity of options used already in file 1: main verb infinitives appear alone (cf. (633)-(634) above) or in combination with the copula form ist (‘is’) (example (619)). Further, some main verbs (e.g. fallt (‘falls’)) appear correctly marked for the 3rd person singular in some constructions (cf. example (616) above), but are erroneously used in other contexts (e.g. in constructions with conjoined subjects, cf. (620)).
By assumption, Christa’s L2 German structure at the onset of the study consists of an elementary structural domain, the VP. Grammatical processes like subject- verb agreement or verb raising run vacuous because the relevant functional projections are not yet available. Finite verb forms, where they are produced, represent unanalysed forms. The occasional use of the complementiser weil represents no sufficient evidence for the availability of an extended structure.