Selective vulnerability in very advanced L2 grammars: Evidence from VPE constraints

  • Kholoud A Al-Thubaiti
  • Second language Research, January 2018, SAGE Publications
  • DOI: 10.1177/0267658317751577

Verb deletion in English conjunct sentences

What is it about?

In English, verb deletion in conjunct sentences (e.g. John slept and Mary will ___ too) does not always require that the antecedent verb (slept) and deleted verb (sleep) be identical. However, there are conditions where they must be identical (e.g. John will be here and Mary will ___too vs. *John is here and Mary will___ too). This study tested how non-native Saudi Arabic speakers of English could learn the conditions under which verb deletion is possible and impossible in English. The results from an acceptability judgment task showed that they managed to learn some of the conditions but not all of them. The conditions that proved more problematic related to sentences with participle auxiliaries (e.g. * John slept and Mary was ___too vs. Peter saw your parents last week but he hasn't ___since). In a generative approach to the study of non-native second language acquisition, the study offers an account of selective success.

Why is it important?

The study offers a linguistic account of what could be challenging to master in non-native second language acquisition even among highly proficient speakers. A crucial finding is that selective success cannot be explained without considering feature interpretability.


Kholoud Al-Thubaiti
Umm Al-Qura University

I hope this article could advance our understanding of what second/foreign language learners of English could master. The findings of this study should be useful for English pedagogy because they inform us of what is difficult to learn and why. One of the take home messages is that it is never impossible to excel in foreign language learning. This article shows how non-native learners come to learn very subtle conditions but in a different way from the native speakers. At the end, I hope that you find this article thought-provoking.

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The following have contributed to this page: Kholoud Al-Thubaiti