The Role of Syntax and Semantics in the Grammars of English Learners

Guy Matthews


The extent to which syntactic models, semantic models or combined models incorporating both syntactic and semantic elements explain the language used by learners has been much researched. This study assumes that there is an innate language faculty which plays a fundamental part in a native speaker’s acquisition of their first language. In particular it will focus on the use of reflexives, a highly abstruse area which is not part of formal English teaching. However, posited syntactic models of how reflexives are used and interpreted do not seem to fully explain native speaker intuitions. This discontinuity between the syntactic models and the results from data obtained from informants has also become apparent in the research into Second Language Acquisition (SLA). Thus, this research will look at a model which combines the syntactic theory of movement at Logical Form with the semantic theory that pronouns and reflexives can be described in terms of logophoricity. Testing will then be undertaken of native speakers of English as well as native speakers of Mandarin Chinese to see if this model can account for their intuitions about English reflexive pronoun


Syntax; Semantics; Logophoricity; Logical form; Head movement; Language acquisition

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