Interpretation of Korean null pronouns in subject and object position: Comparing native and non-native speakers

Silvia Kim, Elsi Kaiser


We report an experiment that investigates how native and non-native Korean speakers’ interpretation of null pronouns in subject and object position is influenced by structural and discourse-level factors. We compare native Korean speakers to L2 Korean learners whose L1, Spanish, only has null pronouns in subject position. We find that native Korean speakers’ interpretation of subject and object null pronouns is guided by structural factors as well as discourse-level coherence relations, with subject nulls being more sensitive to coherence relations than object nulls. In contrast, our results suggest that L2 speakers’ interpretation of null pronouns in Korean is less influenced by coherence relations. Our results support claims that interface phenomena are challenging in L2 acquisition and provide new evidence that this occurs with null pronouns in L2 even when the L1 has null pronouns.


pronoun interpretation, null pronouns, coherence relations, Korean, Spanish, second language acquisition, Interface Hypothesis

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Copyright (c) 2021 Silvia Kim, Elsi Kaiser

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