Acquisition of the Japanese Object Case Particle Wo by Adult Hindi Speakers: Testing the Transitivity Scale of TwoPlace Predicates
Keywords:Case particle, Second language acquisition, Transitivity scale
This paper examines the explanatory value of the transitivity scale of two-place predicates proposed by Tsunoda (1981, 1985, 1991) as applied to the ease or difficulty of the acquisition of the Japanese object case particle wo by Hindi speaking learners of Japanese as a foreign language. Tsunoda notes that predicates can be ranked cross-linguistically in the order of decreasing transitivity into the following types – Direct effect >> Perception >> Pursuit >> Knowledge >> Feeling >> Relation. The transitivity scale predicts that learners are more likely to analyze predicates highest in the hierarchy as transitive, and therefore mark the direct object NP with wo. Inversely, predicates lower in the hierarchy are more likely to be analyzed as intransitive, and therefore be marked by case particles other than wo. Acquisition data from 52 college-age learners divided into three proficiency levels bears out the predication in the case of predicates belonging to the extreme ends of the transitivity scale (Direct effect – Feeling, Relation). However, the prediction does not hold true for the intermediate types, which are better explained by Malchukov’s (2005) re-analyzed version of the transitivity scale. The results show that case particle selection is influenced by both predicate type as well as the case frame of individual verbs in the learner’s mother tongue.