The Syntax-Discourse Interface and the Interface Between Generative Theory and Pedagogical Approaches to SLA

  • Elena ValenzuelaEmail author
  • Bede McCormack
Part of the Educational Linguistics book series (EDUL, volume 16)


This chapter presents experimental data on the acquisition of topic-comment structures, a syntax-discourse interface property, in a bidirectional study of L2 English and L2 Spanish. Results show that learners had acquired the syntactic properties of clitic placement, for which they had received explicit instruction, but the majority of learners had difficulty with the semantic notion of specificity, for which explicit instruction was not given. The L2 Spanish learners in particular overproduced clitics. We distinguish between syntactic properties for which explicit instruction is given and subtle interpretive properties that are not the subject of explicit instruction and suggest that meaning-focused instruction could help the learner. The informed classroom teacher can provide an increased amount of input for learners, thereby facilitating acquisition. Teachers may not be aware of these subtle semantic notions and may not therefore provide explicit instruction for these interface properties. However, by understanding the specific/nonspecific distinction in constructions such as topic-comment structures, the instructor is in a position to provide carefully selected, authentic input that increases learners’ opportunities to process the syntactic forms.


Interface Property Explicit Instruction Topicalised Element Left Periphery Semantic Notion 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Modern Languages and LiteraturesUniversity of OttawaOttawaCanada
  2. 2.Department of Education and Language Acquisition, LaGuardia Community CollegeCity University of New YorkLong Island CityUSA

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