Acquiring the English Causative Alternation: Evidence from the University of Jordan

Aseel Zibin, Abdel Rahman Altakhaineh


The main objective of the current study was to test whether Advanced Jordanian EFL learners have acquired the English causative alternation. To this end, we used a Grammaticality Judgment Task (GJT) to determine whether the participants would be able distinguish between alternating and non-alternating causative/inchoative verbs. The verbs used in the GJT were chosen based on their frequency in the Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA). The sample of the study consisted of eighty advanced Jordanian EFL learners, studying English Language and Literature at the University of Jordan. The results revealed that the participants have not acquired the English causative alternation (total mean=61%). Specifically, the results showed that the participants encountered some difficulties with certain verbs that do not alternate and were used ungrammatically on the GJT. We proposed that these difficulties could be attributed to the differences between English and Jordanian Arabic (JA) in terms of the semantically-based constraints that govern the causative-inchoative alternation in English and JA. The participants transferred the argument structure of verbs in JA into English without realising that the two languages are different in terms of the verbs that are allowed to alternate and those that are not. The study concludes with recommendations for further research.

Keywords: C


Lexical semantics, causative-inchoative alternation, argument structure, second language acquisition, Jordanian EFL learners

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