The Role of L1 Transfer in the Acquisition of English Relative Clauses by Iranian EFL Learners: A Case of Resumptive Pronouns in Persian

Mehrdad Rezaeian, Farahnaz Abedini, Firooz Sadighi


This paper was an attempt to investigate the acquisition of the uninterpretable feature of resumptive pronouns by Persian foreign language learners of English. Tsimpli and Dimitrakopolou (2007) asserted that uninterpretable features are unavailable in second language acquisition after the critical period. Unlike English which does not allow resumptive pronouns (RPs), Persian shows various behaviors across different relative clauses (RCs). In Persian, RP is ungrammatical in subject, optional in object, and required in object-of-preposition RCs. To examine the status of RPs in learners` interlanguage, a grammaticality judgment test and a translation test were administered to 120 Persian learners of English at three proficiency levels and also to 15 English native speakers. Repeated measures ANOVA was conducted and the results showed that the higher the proficiency of the learners the more native-like they would be in rejecting RPs in English. The results are in line with the predictions of the Interpretability Hypothesis proposed by Tsimpli and Dimitrakopoulou (2007). The findings also provided some theoretical and pedagogical implications for language policy makers especially with regard to age related issue.


interpretability hypothesis, Persian L2 learners, resumptive pronoun, relative clause

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