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Dormant features in second language lexicon. Dr Boping Yuan

Adopting a de-compositional approach to items in the lexicon, this project involved an empirical study to investigate Chinese speakers’ second language (L2) acquisition of English wh-on-earth questions (i.e. questions with phrases like what on earth or who on earth). An acceptability judgment task, a discourse-completion task and an interpretation task were used in the study, and preliminary analyses of the results indicate that in Chinese speakers’ L2 English, the form of wh-on-earth can be learned and stored native-like, but without being endowed with a fully elaborated features. A distinction between active features and dormant features in L2 lexicon is made in the analyses, and the preliminary results suggest that features transferred from learners’ L1 to their L2 are likely to lose their vigour and vitality in their L2 lexicon and become dormant if there is no evidence in the target language input to confirm or disconfirm them. A typical consequence of a dormant feature is likely to be random behaviours of a related structure in L2 learners’ production and interpretation. The preliminary results also suggeset that semantic features, discourse features as well as morphosyntactic features can all become dormant in L2 lexicon.