Naïve English-speaking Learners’ Use of Indirect Positive Evidence: The Case of Mandarin Plural Marking
Ying Li, Heather Goad
July 2022

When second language (L2) learners are faced with acquiring a grammar that is a subset of their native language (L1) grammar, direct positive evidence is often unavailable. In view of this, we experimentally examine whether learners can instead use indirect positive evidence: evidence drawn from errors in a learner’s L1 made by native speakers of the learner’s L2. We test whether naïve English-speaking learners of Mandarin can determine that plural morphology is not obligatorily marked on Mandarin nominals. Participants were exposed to a dialogue in English providing indirect positive evidence for the absence of plural marking in Mandarin: plural deletion errors in the Mandarin speaker’s English productions. After learning 12 pseudo-Mandarin nouns in singular contexts, participants were tested on their word learning knowledge, using both singular and plural pictures as prompts. 40% of learners correctly deduced that the same string to which they had assigned some singular interpretation was also appropriate in plural contexts, demonstrating sensitivity to the indirect positive evidence they were exposed to in the dialogue. We conclude that indirect positive evidence is likely an effective way for language learners to acquire a grammar that is a subset of their native language grammar.
Format: [ pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/006023
(please use that when you cite this article)
Published in: submitted
keywords: indirect positive evidence, subset grammar, inflectional morphology, plurals, mandarin, morphology
previous versions: v1 [May 2021]
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