Topics, assertions and additive words: How L2 learners get from information structure to target-language syntax
Topics, assertions and additive words: How L2 learners get from information structure to target-language syntax. Linguistics, 40
(4), 891-923. doi:10.1515/ling.2002.033.
The article compares the integration of topic-related additive words at different stages of untutored L2 acquisition. Data stem from an ‘‘additive-elicitation task’’ that was designed in order to capture topic-related additive words in a context that is at the same time controlled for the underlying information structure and nondeviant from other kinds of narrative discourse. We relate the distinction between stressed and nonstressed forms of the German scope particles and adverbials auch ‘also’, noch ‘another’, wieder ‘again’, and immer noch ‘still’ to a uniform, information-structure-based principle: the stressed variants have scope over the topic information of the relevant utterances. It is then the common function of these additive words to express the additive link between the topic of the present utterance and some previous topic for which the same state of affairs is claimed to hold. This phenomenon has often been referred to as ‘‘contrastive topic,’’ but contrary to what this term suggests, these topic elements are by no means deviant from the default in coherent discourse. In the underlying information structure, the validity of some given state of affairs for the present topic must be under discussion. Topic-related additive words then express that the state of affairs indeed applies to this topic, their function therefore coming close to the function of assertion marking. While this functional correspondence goes along with the formal organization of the basic stages of untutored second-language acquisition, its expression brings linguistic constraints into conflict when the acquisition of finiteness pushes learners to reorganize their utterances according to target-language syntax.