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IMPLICATURES IN L2 FRENCH: Evidence from the c’est-cleft in near-native French Emilie Destruel 1 & Bryan Donaldson 2 1 University of Iowa, 2 UC Santa Cruz.

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Presentation on theme: "IMPLICATURES IN L2 FRENCH: Evidence from the c’est-cleft in near-native French Emilie Destruel 1 & Bryan Donaldson 2 1 University of Iowa, 2 UC Santa Cruz."— Presentation transcript:

1 IMPLICATURES IN L2 FRENCH: Evidence from the c’est-cleft in near-native French Emilie Destruel 1 & Bryan Donaldson 2 1 University of Iowa, 2 UC Santa Cruz


3 Overview examine acquisition of a pragmatic property of the French c’est-cleft: exhaustivity (pragmatic implicature) syntax/semantics near-native speakers of French corpus data (briefly) experimental data results hint at a proficiency effect at very high levels of attainment

4 Organization of the talk Background on implicature, exhaustivity and the French c’est-cleft c’est (-cleft) in L2 French Corpus & experimental study Results (corpus, experimental) Discussion/conclusion


6 Example: c’est-cleft (1) C’est Jean qui a cuisiné les haricots. It’s John who has cooked the beans. “It’s John who cooked the beans” Bi-clausal structure containing a matrix copula and a non- restrictive relative-clause. Semantically equivalent to the SVO form in (2)… Yet, (1) is the felicitous form to answer a wh-question in spoken French. (2) is grammatical but pragmatically infelicitous. Lambrecht (1994); Katz (1997); Hamlaoui (2009). (2) #Jean a cuisiné les haricots. “John cooked the beans.”

7 Relevant property C’est-cleft marks focus (new or contrastive info). The c’est-cleft is assumed to convey exhaustivity. With a c’est-cleft, a speaker exhaustively identifies all things (from a contextually determined set of alternatives) that satisfy the relative clause. i.e. It’s John and no one else who cooked the beans. Clech-Darbon et al. (1999); Destruel (2012, 2013).

8 Implicatures The part of the sentence that’s “suggested” (pragmatic interpretation/non-literal meaning), as opposed to what is “stated” or clearly expressed (logical interpretation/ literal meaning). Grice (1975,1989); Levinson (2000); Horn (2004); Chierchia (2004) (5) Paul: Are you going to Fred’s party? Lisa: I have to work. Lisa implies that she is not going, although she did not state so. What she stated is distinct from what she implied. Searle (1975)

9 Applied to the c’est-cleft … (6) It’s John who cooked the beans. What is said: John cooked the beans. What is meant: John and no one else cooked the beans. If speaker wanted to reinforce and fully commit to an exhaustive interpretation, she would have used the stronger term only, cf. contrast between (6) and (7). Byram Washburn et al. (2012) (7) Only John cooked the beans. Crucially, with the cleft, exhaustivity can be cancelled, see (8): Horn (1981) (8) Paul: It’s John who cooked the beans … Lisa: Well yes, but Mary also cooked the beans.

10 Summary: Exhaustivity & Syntax Exclusive marker Only Only John cooked the beans = exhaustivity is part of what is said (semantically encoded, i.e an entailment). It cannot be overruled. C’est-cleft construction C’est Jean qui a cuisiné les haricots = exhaustivity is part of what is suggested (pragmatically inferred, i.e. an implicature). It can be overruled. SVO sentence (canonical) Jean a cuisiné les haricots = no exhaustivity implied.


12 Contrastive analysis: French-English semantics of exhaustivity c’est-cleft and it-cleft present similar properties with respect to exhaustivity (Destruel et al., forthcoming) overall frequency c’est-cleft globally more frequent than English it-cleft; Katz (2000); Trévise (1986) English it-clefts “exceedingly rare” (Roland et al., 2007: 353) register c’est-cleft = informal, mostly spoken; it-cleft = formal, written; Gess (2009); Katz (2000); Roland et al. (2007) syntax c’est-cleft prefers subjects; it-cleft prefers non-arguments (adjuncts); subjects are rare; Carter-Thomas (2009)

13 C’est & c’est-cleft in L2 French Early & fixed interlanguage strategy? c’est one of earliest syntactic structures to emerge in L2 French interlanguage (not the cleft); Trévise (1986) overuse of c’est to avoid more complex morphology; Bartning (1997) formulaic use of c’est persists even in advanced L2 French; Bartning (1997) confusion between c’est-cleft and presentational avoir-cleft; Watorek (2004) targetlike syntax versus targetlike discourse difficulty constructing discourse even when syntactic form is mastered; Bardovi-Harlig (1999); Bartning (2009); Watorek (2004) do advanced speakers move beyond early use of c’est?

14 Advanced L2 French relatively little use of c’est-cleft in advanced L2 French elicited production; Sleeman (2004) However: focus-marking via c’est-clefts = nativelike in spontaneous oral production of near-natives; Donaldson (2012) focus contexts with c’est-cleft yield nativelike ERP signatures in adult L2 French (but modulated by proficiency); Reichle & Birdsong (2014) caveat: in these studies, examination limited to focus (fairly broadly writ) L2 c’est-cleft studies limited to focus-marking no examination (to our knowledge) of implicature with c’est-cleft in L2 French (semantics of c’est-cleft)

15 Interest for SLA? Advanced/near-native/successful endstate L2 proficiency L2 pragmatics fine-grained interpretative properties dependent on discourse context (e.g, syntax-discourse, syntax-semantics; Sorace 2011, Sorace & Serratrice 2009) L1 transfer: subtle but important differences between English it-cleft and French c’est-cleft distinction between ‘near-native’ proficiency and ‘highly proficient L2 users’ (Lundell et al. 2013: 11) acquisition/use of informal linguistic variants in L2; Trévise (1986); Regan (1997); Dewaele (2000, 2002); Sax (2003)

16 Research Questions 1. Do near-native speakers of French use the c’est-cleft to convey exhaustivity in spontaneous conversation?  corpus examination (Donaldson near-native French corpus) 2. What is the relationship between the c’est-cleft and exhaustivity in near-native French? Does the near-native grammar recognize exhaustivity? If so, do NNSs exhibit different reflexes of exhaustivity across clefts, exclusives, and canonical sentences? (Is their semantic notion of exhaustivity sensitive to syntactic structure/grammar?) If so, are the distinctions nativelike?  forced-choice experimental task (from Destruel 2013)

17 Hypotheses We assume that the semantic notion of exhaustivity is present in the L2 grammar (transfer of a notion acquired in L1). However, several scenarios for L2 mapping of exhaustivity and syntax: 1. Near-native grammar not sensitive to exhaustivity/syntax mapping. 2. NNSs interpret the cleft as semantically exhaustive (like only); no pragmatic derivation of exhaustive inference. 3. NNSs interpret the cleft as non-exhaustive (like canonical SV); no pragmatic derivation of exhaustive inference. 4. NNSs pattern like NSs and evince pragmatically derived exhaustivity in clefts vs. canonical SV; the c’est-cleft is not semantically monolithic

18 Participants Corpus data 10 near-natives + 10 natives (Donaldson 2008, 2012) near-natives L1 English “late” L2 learners (Johnson & Newport, 1989; Marinova-Todd, 2003; Abrahamson & Hyltenstam, 2009) Experimental data L2 group 10 near-natives (new participants) L1 English “late” L2 learners L1 control group 24 native speakers of French (Destruel 2013)

19 Proficiency Measures Corpus group partial replication of Birdsong (1992) GJT Experimental group replication of Tremblay’s (2011) French cloze test

20 Corpus analysis 8.5 hour corpus (Donaldson 2008, 2012) 10 native/near-native dyads spontaneous informal speech Tokens of c’est-clefts examined for clearly exhaustive readings

21 Experimental task Forced-choice task (Destruel 2013) 2 X 3 design Grammatical function of clefted element (Subject vs. object) Sentence form (exclusive sentence, cleft, SVO) administered by computer via online survey website Participants instructed to select the most natural continuation to a prompt. Each participant: 30 experimental items + 20 fillers

22 Experimental task Sample item (glossed in English) Prompt: Who kissed John? It’s Mary who kissed John. (c’est-cleft)

23 Experimental task Sample item (glossed in English) Prompt: Who kissed John? It’s Mary who kissed John. (c’est-cleft) Forced choice: __Yes, and Lisa also kissed John. (no contradiction, no exhaustivity) __Yes, but Lisa also kissed John. (pragmatically inferred exhaustivity; implicature) __No. Lisa also kissed John. (semantically encoded overt contradiction)

24 Predicted results 1. Exclusive sentences should be overtly contradicted (No,...) 2. Cleft sentences should not be overtly contradicted, demonstrating (a) that the inference can be cancelled and (b) that the exhaustivity is not an inherent semantic property of the cleft (Yes, but...) 3. SV sentences (canonical) should not be contradicted in any way (Yes, and...)

25 Predicted results Sample item (glossed into English) Who kissed John? It’s Mary who kissed John. (cleft condition) __Yes, and Lisa also kissed John. (38%) X Yes, but Lisa also kissed John. (59%) __ No. Lisa also kissed John. (3%) (French native speaker judgments; Destruel 2013)


27 Proficiency Results (experimental, NNS) Participant %accurateGroup mean A19 97.8% = 94.53% A18 97.8% A13 95.6% A15 95.6% A11 94.9% A12 91.1% A14 88.9% A20 82.2% = 80.73% A17 80% A16 80% Highest 7 Lowest 3

28 Results from the corpus Donaldson (2012) near-natives use c’est-cleft felicitously to mark focus contrast, corrective, broad focus, etc. nativelike preference for focused subjects All the near-natives produce at least some examples of the c’est-cleft in clearly exhaustive contexts demonstrates mapping of exhaustivity and c’est-cleft in spontaneous production

29 Experimental results: Native Speakers 80 p<0.001 **

30 Experimental results: Near-Natives (all) * p=0.06p<0.005

31 Experimental results: 7 highest-scoring NNSs p<0.001 p<0.05 * *

32 Experimental results: 3 lower-scoring NNSs p=0.6


34 Exhaustivity in near-native French Corpus data suggest that near-natives can use c’est-clefts to encode exhaustivity (like natives) quantification difficult, therefore experimental task Experimental results show that near-natives pattern like natives: Canonical SV: preference for non-exhaustive reading C’est-cleft: preference for pragmatically derived exhaustive reading Crucially, like natives, the near-natives derive exhaustive implicature and allow preferred interpretations for exhaustivity to be overruled (in SV and c’est-clefts) Near-native mastery of c’est-cleft goes beyond focus- marking to include pragmatics/semantics

35 Upper limits of L2 proficiency preliminary indications that L2 performance is modulated by (slight) differences in proficiency at very high levels of attainment lower proficiency = weaker distinction between cleft and SV further participants needed at “not quite near-native” levels “highly proficiency L2 users” (Lundell et al., 2013) When is pragmatic exhaustivity acquired? difficult/obscure syntax-semantic properties can emerge early in L2 French (e.g., Dekydtspotter et al.,1997) discourse/syntax acquired late? (Hopp 2009, Rothman 2009) lower/intermediate participants needed as well role of L1 transfer in earlier interlanguage stages c’est may be a fixed expression in early IL – effect on acquisition of c’est-cleft?

36 Thank you!


38 NNS, Age of first exposure CORPUS STUDY EXP. TASK

39 NNS, Age of first instruction CORPUS STUDY EXP. TASK

40 CORPUS STUDY Native Speakers 12345678910 SexFFFMMFFMFF Age4640*3142556231346554 COBFr MoFr EducHSBAMAPhDBAMABA PhD Near-native Speakers 12345678910 SexFFFFFFFMFF Age52402739457034265752 COBUSAUKUSA UK USA UK AOI211113 1110 161411 AOE232016201720 2120 EducBA BTSMBAMA JDBA PhD LOR27,318, 7 7,2914,347,35,94,327,1>25

41 EXP. TASK Native Speakers 1234567891010 111212 1313 1414 1515 1616 1717 1818 1919 2020 2121 SxFFFMMFMFMM Age cob Edc Near-native Speakers 12345678910 SexMMFFMMMFFF Age COB AOI AOE Educ LOR

42 Overall:  Native speakers (n=34) (from Donaldson 2012 & Destruel 2013) Corpus n=10, exp. Task n=24, Female = 20, Male = 14, 28 < Age range < 62, Country of birth: France (33), Morocco (1).  Near-native speakers (n=20) Corpus n=10, exp. Task n=10, Female = 13, Male = 7, 25 < Age range < 74, Country of birth: UK (7), USA (13), All “late learners” of French: age of first exposure > 10yold. Johnson & Newport, 1989; Marinova-Todd, 2003; Abrahamson & Hyltenstam, 2009.

43 Corpus Data 10 dyads of NS and NNS acquaintances. Conversation length per dyad: 45 < x < 58 minutes. Total of 8.25 hours recorded. ~77,300 words with full transcription (following the conventions in Jefferson, 1984) Researcher not present during recording sessions. No discussion topics were prescribed. Simply told to enjoy the chance to visit with a friend. When possible, recordings conducted in participants’ homes; otherwise, in a lounge at a local university.

44 Participant code %accurateGroup mean A19 97.8% = 96.34% A18 97.8% A13 95.6% A15 95.6% A11 94.9% A12 91.1% = 84.44% A14 88.9% A20 82.2% A17 80% A16 80% Proficiency Results (experimental, NNS)

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