The acquisition of complex wh-questions in L2
Etxabe Azpiazu, Mónica
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The main goal of this paper is to review how complex wh-questions are acquired in the process of learning a second language (L2). Adopting a generative perspective, the paper will consider experimental studies that have dealt with the issue of whether L2 learners have access to Universal Grammar (UG) and how other factors such as first language (L1) transfer, derivational complexity, the age of the learners, age of first exposure and length of exposure might be influential in this process. Although most studies to date have focused on learners acquiring English as an L2 with a rather wide variety of first languages (L1s), two recent studies have considered the acquisition of L2 French. They will be reviewed too in order to provide a wider perspective on the acquisition of the syntactic structure under focus: wh-movement. The paper is structured as follows: the first section presents a brief overview of different ideas about how languages are learned to then focus on the generative approach. Additionally, basic concepts of the approach and several misconceptions about it will be commented on. Section 2 provides a crosslinguistic review on wh-question formation, considering other possible structures in other languages, and analyzes how this structure is formed in English and what its main constraints are. Section 3 reviews some studies on the acquisition of wh-questions in L1 and L2 acquisition, whereas section 4 focuses on two more recent studies that consider derivational complexity as a crucial factor in the L2 acquisition process. Section 5 touches on the issue of ultimate attainment and section 6 concludes the paper.