National Kaohsiung Normal University, Taiwan
We explored the interlanguage variations and development by Chinese EFL learners of their acquisition of determiner phrases (DP) in the argument position in an English sentence of four types—definite, specific, indefinite and generic references. Ninety subjects, classified according to their proficiency in English at four levels based on their duration of learning English, participated in this project. They were guided to complete a task of inserting a DP into a sentence, and data were then gathered for quantitative analysis. According to a cross-linguistic comparison of the reference systems and their representations in these two languages, we found that acquisition errors basically derive initially from the discrepant representing systems between the languages, and from the lack of attention to the contextual information and requirement of syntactic agreement in the target language in subsequent stages. Interlanguage development reveals that L1 transfer exists at the initial stage and then gradually shifts to development errors such as overuse of articles a and the. The order of acquisition of DP of the four types is roughly definite > [signifying before] specific > indefinite > generic; acquisition follows an ascending curve rising steeply at the beginning and then gradually leveling off towards the end.
Key Words: DP acquisition, argument, definiteness, referential system, article