What happens during acquisition of a second language (L2) variable grammar rule?

Proceedings of The 7th International Academic Conference on Humanities and Social Sciences

Year: 2022



What happens during acquisition of a second language (L2) variable grammar rule?

Ernani Machado Garrão Neto



This research is based on observing the acquisition of both Brazilian Portuguese (BP) and European Portuguese (EP) as second languages by adult English native speakers. We had selected a variable syntactic L2 aspect to analyze: null referential subjects. We know for a fact that EP is a genuine null subject language, but we also know that BP has already left the set of genuine pro-drop languages: according to some important studies (Cf. Duarte, 1995), BP is undergoing some changes in its pronominal system, which leads native speakers to prefer using overt subjects instead of null subjects even in some syntactic environments where null subjects are mostly expected. Therefore, we wanted to know how would L2 learners face the different subject status found in both target languages (EP and BP), once their first language (English) is an overt language and learners never had significant contact with other pro-drop language before. Considering this context, we were interested in checking: (a) learners’ frequency sensitivity to overt and null subjects found in two different inputs: BP and EP; and (b) learners’ native language significant influence during the L2 acquisition process. Our study was able to spot some signs which confirmed our main hypothesis, according to which an English native speaker, regardless to his/her fluency, would present, in all target languages acquisition stages, rates of overt and null subjects like that found in L2 input. According to our belief, this scenario would be the result of learners’ frequency sensitivity to input, regardless L1 interference.

keywords: Brazilian Portuguese, European Portuguese, frequency, input, Sociolinguistics.