Access to UG in the Acquisition of Wh-Questions by Pashto-Speaking L2 Learners of English in Pakistan


  • Sultan Muhammad Department of English, Hazara University, Mansehra
  • Salma Khatoon Department of English, University of Azad Jammu & Kashmir, Muzaffarabad
  • Nadeem Haider Bukhari Professor, Department of English, University of AJ&K, Muzaffarabad


UG Access, Acquisition, Wh-questions, Pashto, L2 English learners


One of the central issues in the field of SLA has been the study of the unconscious mental representations in the interlanguage grammars of L2 learners and the availability of UG to adult L2 learners in the acquisition of certain abstract and complex properties of language, including complex bi-clausal wh-questions. Although the question concerning L2 learners’ acquisition of unconscious knowledge like that of the native speakers and the availability of UG in L2 acquisition has widely been studied, there is still no agreement among researchers regarding the precise nature of the representation and the availability of UG. This paper reports results of the study that investigated the acquisition of English wh-questions, both simple and complex, by Pashto-speaking adult L2 learners of English in Pakistan and the issue of access to UG in the acquisition of wh-questions as well as their knowledge about UG constraints (Subjacency and Island constraints) on wh-movement. The study is cross-sectional and data were collected using a Grammaticality Judgment Task and an Elicitation Task. Results of the study indicate that Pashto-speaking adult L2 learners of English have (a) greater knowledge about UG constraints on wh-movement in terms of comprehension, but not the same level of knowledge in the production of wh-questions and (b) partial access to UG in the acquisition of wh-questions as indicated by their intuitive judgments on GJT and their production of simple and complex wh-questions, though with varying degree. Some findings of this study suggest that language use of Pashto-speaking L2 learners of English is based on some abstract linguistic system which in turn is systematic and rule-governed. Results of the present study confirm findings of those studies that advocate partial availability of UG in L2 acquisition and support assumption of generative SLA researchers but do not support Full Access/Transfer and No Access hypotheses.







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