Document Type : Research Paper


1 Vali-e- Asr University

2 Vali-Asr University


The current study aims at exploring the role of causativization as one of the causes stated in the literature for overpassivization of English unaccusatives in an Iranian context.The study was conducted using three data collection procedures, an Oxford Placement Test, a Grammaticality Judgment Task, and a Production Task. The results revealed that causativization errors with non-alternating unaccusatives were common errors among Iranian English Majors. Level of language proficiency was a significant factor in the learners’ performance at both comprehension and production levels. There was a statistical significant correlation between the participants’ performances in the causativization and passivization errors with non-alternating verbs.The obtained results made it clear that language learners encounter serious problems in the acquisition of the verbs, and that more exposure to language input, explicit teaching of the verbs structures, and practice in different contexts can improve the situation.


Aldosari, S. (2007). The Acquisition of English unaccusative verbs by Arabic Native Speakers. ProQuest. Retrieved from
Ambridge, B., Pine, J. M., Rowland, C. F., & Young, C. R. (2008). The effect of verb semantic class and verb frequency (entrenchment) on children’s and adults’ graded judgements of argument-structure overgeneralization errors. Cognition, 106(1), 87-129.
Aue-Apaikul, P. (2006). Transitivized instransives in English: syntactic, semantic and constructional issues, Doctoral dissertaion, University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Balcom, P. (1995). Argument structure and multicompetence. Linguistica
             Atlantica, 17, 1-17.
Balcom, P. (1997). Why is this happened? Passive morphology and   unaccusativity. Second Language Research: 13(1), 1-9.
Bowerman, M. (1982). Evaluating Competing Linguistic Models with Language Acquisition Data: Implications of Developmental Errors  with Causative Verbs. Quaderni di Semantica, 3,5-66.
Bowerman, M. (1988). The'no negative evidence'problem: How do children avoid constructing an overly general grammar? Explaining language universals (pp. 73-101). Oxford: Basil Blackwell.
Bowerman, M. (1996). Argument Structure and Learnability: Is a Solution in Sight?. Proceedings of the Twenty-Second Annual Meeting of the Berkeley Linguistics Society (BLS 22):454-468.
Burzio, L. (1986). Italian syntax: A government-binding approach (Vol. 1).  
           Berlin : Springer Science  & Business Media.
Cabrera, M. & M.L. Zubizarreta. (2003). On the acquisition of Spanish causative structures by L1 speakers of English. Proceedings of the 2002 Generative Approaches to Second Language Acquisition (GASLA-6): L2 Links (pp.24-33). Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Press
Cabrera, M. & Zubizarreta, M. L. (2005a). Overgeneralization of causatives and transfer in L2 Spanish and English. Proceedings of the 6th  Conference on the Acquisition of Spanish and Portuguese as First and Second Languages, David Eddington (Ed.), pp. 15-30. Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Proceedings Project.
Canale, M., & Swain, M. (1980). Theoretical bases of com-municative            approaches to second language teaching and testing. Applied linguistics, 1(1), 1-47.
Chay, H. (2006). Adversity passives of English ergative constructions by East Asian EFL learners: Pragmatic and morphosyntactic transfer of L1. Journal of British & American Studies: No, 14,140-163.
Chierchia, G. (1989). Types and meaning (Vol. 39). Netherlands:Springer.
Chierchia, G. (2004). A semantics for unaccusatives and its syntactic consequences. In A.Alexiadou, E. Anagnostopoulou, & M. Everaert (Eds.), The unaccusativity puzzle (pp.22-59). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
 Chomsky, N. (1987). Generative grammar: its basis, development and  Prospects. Kyoto: Kyoto University of Foreign Studies.
Chomsky, N. (1995). The minimalist program (Vol. 1765). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Chung, T. (2014). Multiple factors in the L2 acquisition of English unaccusative verbs. International Review of Applied Linguistics in Language Teaching, 52(1), 59-87.
Cohen, J. (1988). Statistical Power Analysis for the Behavioral Sciences (2nd Ed.)Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum
Comrie, B. (1989). Language universals and linguistic typology: Syntax and  Morphology. Chicago: University of Chicago press.
Deguchi, A., & Oshita, H. (2004). Meaning, proficiency and error types: Variations in nonnative acquisition of unaccusative verbs. EuroSLA  Yearbook, 4(1), 41-65.
Ellis, R. (1990). Instructed second language acquisition: Learning in the classroom: Basil Blackwell Oxford.
Hale, K., & Keyser, S. J. (2013). Some transitivity alternations in English.  Anuario del Seminario de Filología Vasca" Julio de Urquijo", 20(3), 605- 638.
Hale, K. L., & Keyser, S. J. (2002). Prolegomenon to a theory of argument structure. (Vol. 39). Cambridge: MIT press.
Hale, K. L., Keyser, S. J., & Bromberger, S. (1993). The view from Building20: Essays in linguistics in honor of Sylvain Bromberger (Vol. 24). Cambridge: MIT Press.
Hatch, E., & Brown, C. (1995). Vocabulary, Semantics, and Language Education: ERIC. Cambridge:Cambridge University Press
Helms-Park, R. (1997). Building an l2 lexjcon: the acquisition of vefü3 classes relevant to causativization in English by speakers of Hind urdu and Vietnamese. ProQuest. Retrieved from
Hirakawa, M. (1995).L2 acquisition of English unaccusative constructions.    Paper presented at the Proceedings of the 19th Boston University              Conference on Language Development.1:291-302.Mass: Cascadilla   Press.
Hirakawa, M. (2000). Unaccusativity in second language Japanese and English. Unpublished doctoral dissertation. McGill University, Montreal
Hulstijn, J. H., Hollander, M., & Greidanus, T. (1996). Incidental vocabulary learning by advanced foreign language students: The influence of marginal glosses, dictionary use, and reoccurrence of unknown words. The Modern Language Journal, 80(3), 327-339.
Ju, M. K. (2000). Overpassivization errors by second language learners. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 22(1), 85-111.
Juffs, A. (1998). The acquisition of semantics-syntax correspondences and verb frequencies in ESL materials. Language Teaching Research, 2(2), 93-123.
Juffs, A. (2000). An overview of the second language acquisition of links between verb semantics and morpho-syntax. Second language acquisition and linguistic theory (pp.187-225). Oxford: Blackbell.
Kondo, T. (2005). Overpassivization in second language acquisition. International Review of Applied Linguistics in Language Teaching, 43(2), 129-161.
Krashen, S. (1989). We acquire vocabulary and spelling by reading: Additional evidence for the input hypothesis. The Modern Language Journal, 73(4), 440-464.
Levin, B. (1993). English verb classes and alternations: A preliminary    investigation: Chicago: University of Chicago press.
Levin, B., & Hovav, M. R. (1995). Unaccusativity: At the syntax-lexical semantics interface( Vol. 26). Cambridge, MA: MIT press.
López, M. E. (2008). Transfer and universal grammar in unaccusative constructions errors. Miscelánea: a Journal of English and American Studies (37), 23-38.
Marcotte, J.-P. (2005). Causative alternation errors in child language           acquisition. Unpublished PhD dissertation, Stanford University.   
Montrul, S. (1999). Causative errors with unaccusative verbs in L2 Spanish. Language Research, 15(2), 191-219.
Montrul, S. (2000). Transitivity alternations in L2 acquisition toward a modular view of transfer. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 22(02), 229-273.
Montrul, S. (2001a). Agentive verbs of manner of motion in Spanish and English as second languages. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 23(02), 171-206.
Montrul, S. (2001b). Causatives and transitivity in L2 English. Language Learning, 51(1), 51-106.
Montrul, S. (2004). Psycholinguistic evidence for split intransitivity in Spanish second language acquisition. Applied Psycholinguistics, 25(02), 239-267.
Moore, M. M. P. (1993). Second language acquisition of lexically constrained transitivityalternations: acquisition of the causative alternation by second language learners of English. Unpublished Doctoral dissertation, University of South Carolina. 
Nation, P. (1990). Teaching and learning vocabulary. Boston, MA: Heinle and Heinle.
Oshita, H. (1997). " The Unaccusative Trap": L2 Acquisition of English          Intransitive Verbs. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of    Southern California, Los Angeles.
Oshita, H. (2000). What is happened may not be what appears to be happening: a corpus study of ‘passive’unaccusatives in L2 English. Second Language Research, 16(4), 293-324.
Oshita, H. (2001). The unaccusative trap in second language acquisition.    Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 23(02), 279-304.
Pallant, J. (2007). SPSS survival manual: A step-by-step guide to data analysis using SPSS version 15. Maidenhead, Berkshire, England: McGraw Hill Education.
Perlmutter, D. (1978). Impersonal passives and the unaccusative hypothesis.  University of California at Berkeley, Berkeley Linguistics Society,157-89.
Rezai, M. J., & Ariamanesh, A. A. (2012). Acquisition of English Unergative and Unaccusative Structures by Persian EFL Learners. Journal of Teaching Language Skills, 4(2), 53-85.
Sahragard, R., Sadighi, F., & Bagherianpour, A. (2010). The Role of Conceptualizable Agent in Overpassivization of English Unaccusatives in Iranian English Majors. Journal of Teaching Language Skills, 2(3), 141-162.
Schmidt, R. W. (1990). The role of consciousness in second language learning1.  Applied linguistics, 11(2), 129-158.
Schwartz, B. D., & Sprouse, R. (1994). Word order and nominative case in   nonnative language acquisition: a longitudinal study of (L1 Turkish) German interlanguage.Language acquisition studies in generative grammar, 31(4), 71-89.
Schwartz, B. D., & Sprouse, R. A. (1996). L2 cognitive states and the full  transfer/full access model. Second Language Research, 12(1), 40-72.    
Shomura, Y. (1996). Perspectives on pedagogic grammar in English language teaching: a study of the acquisition of ergatives by Japanese learners.
Sorace, A. (2000). Gradients in auxiliary selection with intransitive verbs. Language, 859-  890.
Stoller, F., & Grabe, W. (1993). Implications for L2 vocabulary acquisition and instruction from L1 vocabulary research. Second language reading and vocabulary learning, 24-45.
Theakston, A. L. (2004). The role of entrenchment in children’s and adults’ performance on grammaticality judgment tasks. Cognitive Development, 19(1), 15-34.
Travis, L. (1991). Inner aspect and the structure of VP. Proceedings of NELS XXII Conference.
Travis, C. (2000). Unshadowed thought: Representation in thought and language. Harvard University Press.‏
Van Valin Jr, R. D. (1990). Semantic parameters of split intransitivity.  Language, 221-260.
White, L. (2003). Second Language Acquisition and Universal Grammar. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Yip, V. (1994). Grammatical consciousness-raising and learnability.   Perspectives on pedagogical grammar, 123-139.       
Yip, V. (1995). Interlanguage and learnability: from Chinese to English (Vol. 11). Netherlands: John Benjamins Publishing.
Zobl, H. (1989). Canonical typological structures and ergativity in English L2 acquisition. Linguistic perspectives on second language acquisition, 203-221.
Zubizarreta, M. L., & Oh, E. (2004). The lexicon-syntax interface: The case   of motion verbs. Ms., University of Southern California, Los- Angeles.