Acquisition of English Unergative and Unaccusative Structures by Persian EFL Learners

Document Type: Research Paper

Authors

1 Assistant Professor Yazd University, Yazd

2 M. A., in TEFL Yazd University, Yazd

Abstract

The acquisition of argument structures has been studied by a variety of second language acquisition scholars within the past two decades (Atay, 2010; Can, 2009; Chay, 2006, & Kras, 2007, among others). In the present study, ‘Predicate’ as the most substantial element of a sentence is investigated. There are three English verb-types which seem to be more problematic for Persian EFL learners: (a) Paired Ergative verbs (e.g. open); (b) Unergative verbs (e.g. cry) and (c) Unaccusative verbs (e.g. die). The study aims to shed more light on the learnability problems with which Persian EFL learners are faced in the acquisition of the afore-mentioned structures. Additionally, the role of cross-linguistic influence and proficiency is investigated. The results show that the participants had learning problems associated with Unaccusative predicates as well as the intransitive (inchoative & middle) variants of Paired Ergative verbs. Additionally, the role of L1 (Persian) was detected in the acquisition of unergatives and inchoatives more clearly when the learners experienced learning difficulties as the result of negative transfer from L1. In the case of unaccusatives, the challenges are attributed to the lack of L2 intuitive knowledge of the learners. 

Keywords