Genericity in second and third language acquisition An overview of the ADIM project (WP4)

Genericity in second third language acquisition

Plan for the ADIM project- work package 4

Expressing genericity is universal, yet no language has a specific linguistic marker for marking genericity (Krifka & Gerstner, 1987), thus within a language there may be different types of NPs that can express genericity (Lazaridou‐Chatzigoga et al., 2015). Whether a specific sentence is existential or generic is disambiguated by context.

This project aims to investigate whether the universal meaning helps acquire the morphological form in the different languages. There is evidence from L2 (Ionin & Montrul, 2010; Ionin et al., 2013; Snape, 2013; Snape et al., 2013) and L3 studies (Ionin et al., 2015; Ionin et al., 2011) that mappings of previously acquired languages can influence the mappings on the additional languages. The participants in this project are adult speakers with L1Polish/L2English/L3Norwegian and bilingual Polish-Norwegian adolescents acquiring English as an L3 in Norwegian schools. The task will test the L2 English and L3 Norwegian of the adult participants and the adolescent’s L3 English.

The combination of available forms is diverse in the three languages as Norwegian allows five NP forms (table 1- see table in attachment) while Polish lacks articles and in English bare nouns are ungrammatical. This affects how the generic meaning is mapped onto the available forms (table 2- see table in attachment).

The tasks are currently being designed and include acceptability judgment tasks and truth value judgment tasks inspired by previous work by Ionin and colleagues (Ionin et al., 2015; Ionin & Montrul, 2010; Ionin et al., 2013; Ionin et al., 2011). We also plan to include a reading task with eye tracking to have an online measure for the acceptance of the target forms. The structures under investigation will include definite plurals (Unavailable in Polish and with divergent generic interpretation in English and Norwegian), bare plurals (ambiguous in Polish and with divergent generic interpretation in English and Norwegian), and bare nouns (similar in Polish and Norwegian but ungrammatical in English). We will also test definiteness as a control condition to check if the participants have acquired the article system of the target language (which they cannot transfer from the Polish L1).

Our prediction is that acquiring genericity is difficult because of the form/meaning overlap between the languages and that we should notice transfer effects from the previously acquired languages on the target language.



Ionin, T., Grolla, E., Santos, H., & Montrul, S. A. (2015). Interpretation of NPs in generic and existential contexts in L3 Brazilian Portuguese. Linguistic Approaches to Bilingualism, 5(2), 215-251.

Ionin, T., & Montrul, S. (2010). The role of L1 transfer in the interpretation of articles with definite plurals in L2 English. Language Learning, 60(4), 877-925.

Ionin, T., Montrul, S., & Crivos, M. (2013). A bidirectional study on the acquisition of plural noun phrase interpretation in English and Spanish. Applied Psycholinguistics, 34(3), 483-518.

Ionin, T., Montrul, S., & Santos, H. (2011). Transfer in L2 and L3 acquisition of generic interpretation. BULD 35 Proceedings.

Krifka, M., & Gerstner, C. (1987). An outline of genericity.

Lazaridou‐Chatzigoga, D., Katsos, N., & Stockall, L. (2015). Genericity is easy? Formal and experimental perspectives. Ratio, 28(4), 470-494.

Snape, N. (2013). Japanese and Spanish adult learners of English: L2 acquisition of generic reference. Studies in Language Sciences: Journal of the Japanese Society for Language Sciences, 12, 70-94.

Snape, N., Mayo, M. d. P. G., & Gürel, A. (2013). L1 transfer in article selection for generic reference by Spanish, Turkish and Japanese L2 learners. International Journal of English Studies, 13(1), 1-28.