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LFG Contributions in Second Language Acquisition Research: The Development of Case in Russian L2

Daniele Artoni and Marco Magnani


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Learning a second language (L2) is a complex task, involving cognitive and affective factors, both personal and social. Hence theories of Second Language Acquisition (SLA) are many and varied. Among them, Processability Theory (PT) offers a principled transitional paradigm that deals specifically with grammatical development (cf. Pienemann, 1998; Pienemann, Di Biase & Kawaguchi, 2005). In this paper we will illustrate how LFG contributes substantially to the formulation of PT's developmental hypotheses. Specifically it provides PT with two fundamental concepts, ensuring that the different parts of a sentence fit together: the different syntactic (i.e., lexical, phrasal or sentence) levels within or across which their elements require unification; and the different kinds of correspondences among a-, c- and f-structures. Furthermore, within the PT framework, we will investigate the development of case in Russian L2. In this respect, the original proposal that we wish to make here is that King's (1995) descriptive account of case assignments in Russian can also be applied in a developmental perspective. In particular, we will show that King's four types of case assignments (semantic, configurational, lexical and grammatical functions) can be successfully interfaced with PT's stages for the development of case, and thus constitute a helpful resource for a better understanding of the learners' developmental process. Our hypotheses are then tested on cross-sectional data collected among 12 learners of Russian L2 at different proficiency levels and from a varied L1 background.

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