Agentivity of passives and inchoatives in second language learners of English and Korean

Joo, Hye Ri
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Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Hawaii at Manoa, 2008.
Second language (L2) learners' overpassivization of unaccusatives such as '*the accident was happened' have been widely investigated. One popular account claims that L2 learners lexically causativize unaccusatives and then syntactically passivize them. This study suggests an alternative possibility: Passive unaccusatives may be caused by learners' confusion in the agentivity of passives and inchoatives. This study therefore explores whether L2 learners know the distinction between passives and inchoatives in terms of agentivity. (a) The window was Broken. (passive) (b) The window broke. (inchoative) Unlike inchoatives, passives imply the agent even if not expressed in the syntax.
The results of the EFL study showed that L2 learners have knowledge of constructional meanings of passives and inchoatives but did not show their knowledge when there was no agent in context given as a stimulus for conceptualization. In the KFL study, L2 learners showed native-like knowledge of the passive and the inchoative in Korean. The results suggests that L2 learners' overpassivization can be caused by their incomplete knowledge of constructional meanings.
This dissertation includes two studies: the English as a foreign language (EFL) and the Korean as a foreign language (KFL). Each study includes three experiments: a movie judgment tasks, and two written acceptability judgment tanks---one with sentences and one with question-answer mini-dialogues. The EFL study tested 148 L2 learners of English in Korea and 42 native speakers of English. In the KFL study, the participants were 117 L2 learners of Korean in the U.S. and 64 native speakers of Korean. In the movie test, participants viewed an animation with one of the context types (animate, inanimate, and no agent) and read a passive/inchoative sentence describing the movie and then judge how well the sentence describes the movie. The sentence test investigated how well the participants know that by the agent-phrases (with an animate or inanimate agent) sound natural only with passives, not inchoatives, but that by itself-phrases sound natural with only inchoatives, not passives. The Q&A test examined whether passive and inchoative why-questions expect different types of answers (purpose, animate-cause, and inanimate-cause).
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 242-247).
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275 leaves, bound 29 cm
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Theses for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (University of Hawaii at Manoa). Second Language Acquisition; no. 5039
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