Variation in the left periphery

One more time, the implementation of a target property, i.e. V2, is preceded by a phase during which we observe the coexistence of target-like and target-deviant properties. The production of target non-subject V2 clauses by Muhammed, Maria and Hamida is preceded by an increasing production of target-deviant V3 constructions resulting from the adjunction of non-subject XPs, mostly adverbial phrases, to the sentence-initial position (recall that V3 structures resulting from sentence-internal adverbials appearing between the subject and the verb are interpreted differently, as they reflect the non-application of verb raising). The subsequent “integration” of these elements into the sentential IP structure derives target-like non-subject initial V2 formats. This option, however, seldom occurs to the immediate exclusion of target-deviant V3. While the apparent alternation of V2 and V3 ceases to occur in Maria’s file 5, and Muhammed only produces one V3 structure with the adverb dann in file 5, V2-V3 variation continues to occur in Hamida’s last file, which is the reason we can only speculate on the eventual implementation of V2 in her case.

The apparent coexistence of alternative structural formats prior to the implementation of V2 is not only remarked upon in other studies on DGS-German bilinguals (cf. Schafke 2005: 285), it has also been found to be characteristic of the development of L2 German by adult learners (section 4.5.2, Plaza-Pust 2000). Further, we also remarked on recent evidence of variation in the monolingual acquisition of German which contradicts previous assumptions about the absence of such target-deviant formats in L1 learners. We may conclude therefore that variation regarding V2 is not exclusive to the acquisition situation discussed in this study but is rather tied to reorganisation in learner grammars.

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