chapter  7
30 Pages

Advancedness and the development of relativization in L2 German: A curriculum-based longitudinal study


In this chapter we report on a descriptive longitudinal investigation of the L2 German relative clauses produced by 23 students. As they progressed along the entire undergraduate sequence, each student engaged in a key writing event at the end of each of four curricular levels, resulting in a longitudinal corpus of 54,322 words that contained 454 relative clauses. Only weak support was found for an implicationally constrained development of relativization along the Noun Phrase Accessibility Hierarchy proposed by Keenan and Comrie (1977) and so often used in previous SLA research. Instead, the implicational scaling findings yielded gaps in the predicted sequences that affected between 20 percent and 30 percent of the sample at each level. It was also found that the full range of relative clause types had emerged already at the end of Level 2 for some students and that relativization progressed through Levels 3 and 4 towards an intensification of  relativization and a reduction of the range and complexity of more marked types, coupled with a steady increase in overall frequency of relativization. The findings challenge the commonly accepted assumption that emergence and use of the most marked relative clauses can be usefully considered a sign of advancedness. In addition, they extend Pavesi’s (1986) claim about the superiority of instruction over naturalistic acquisition for ultimate attainment of L2 relative clauses.