This paper reports on an experimental study that investigates the influence of the disparity between English and Arabic on second language acquisition, namely the phenomenon of the acquisition of the English dative alternation by Arab learners. The disallowance of certain Arabic verbs to occur in the double object dative structure causes difficulty for Arab learners to acquire English as far as the acquisition of the dative alternation is concerned. The experiment is devised to examine whether Arab learners are sensitive to syntactic and semantic properties associated with the English dative alternation. The experiment involved picture tasks with two structures: the prepositional dative structure and the double object dative structure. Overall, the results of the experiment show that the L2 learners failed to acquire the double object dative structure which does not exist in their L1. Based on these results, it is argued that L1 has an important effect on the acquisition of L2.
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