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Variable verb placement in second-language German and French: Evidence from production and elicited imitation of finite and nonfinite negated sentences

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  19 May 2011

Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics and Laboratoire Structures Formelles du Langage, CNRS and Université Paris 8
ADDRESS FOR CORRESPONDENCE Sarah Schimke, Department of German Studies, University of Osnabrück, Neuer Graben 40, Osnabrück 49074, Germany. E-mail:


This study examines the placement of finite and nonfinite lexical verbs and finite light verbs (LVs) in semispontaneous production and elicited imitation of adult beginning learners of German and French. Theories assuming nonnativelike syntactic representations at early stages of development predict variable placement of lexical verbs and consistent placement of LVs, whereas theories assuming nativelike syntax predict variability for nonfinite verbs and consistent placement of all finite verbs. The results show that beginning learners of German have consistent preferences only for LVs. More advanced learners of German and learners of French produce and imitate finite verbs in more variable positions than nonfinite verbs. This is argued to support a structure-building view of second-language development.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2011

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