The Korean Association for the Study of English Language and Linguistics

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Korean Journal of English Language and Linguistics - Vol. 24

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Korea Journal of English Language and Linguistics - Vol. 24, No. 0, pp. 15-34
Abbreviation: KASELL
ISSN: 1598-1398 (Print) 2586-7474 (Online)
Print publication date 31 Jan 2024
Received 04 Nov 2023 Revised 27 Dec 2023 Accepted 06 Jan 2024

The Role of Cause in the L2 Acquisition of English Psychological Verbs
Jihyun Kim ; Taegoo Chung
(First author) Lecturer, Department of English Language Education Korea University (
(Corresponding author) Professor, Department of English Language Education Korea University (

© 2024 KASELL All rights reserved
This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons License, which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


This study investigates the influence of the semantic feature [Cause] on the L2 acquisition of English psychological verbs by L1 Korean speakers. In an English normal sentence an argument with either of the features, [Volition] and [Cause], can be mapped to subject. This study places particular emphasis on [Cause] due to its distinctive role in Korean; an argument with the feature is not generally mapped to subject. To explore the role of [Cause] in L2 English, it is compared with [Volition] in Experiencer-Subject (ES) and Experiencer-Object (EO) verbs. The study employs a naturalness judgment test with ninety-three L1-Korean speakers and fifty-four L1-English speakers. From the statistical analysis of the results, we have found three major findings. The first finding is that causative EO verbs are more difficult for L2 English learners than non-causative ES verbs. It corresponds with the findings of the previous studies and it also demonstrates a strong effect of [Cause]. The second finding is that non-volitional EO (causative) verbs are more challenging than volitional EO (causative) verbs. That is, the L2 English learners are reluctant to accept a causative but non-volitional subject. The third finding is that the strength of the feature [Cause] in L2 English speakers is stronger than the strength in L1 English speaker. Collectively, three findings underscore the pivotal role of [Cause] in the L2 acquisition of English psychological verbs, which is believed to be due to L1 influence; Korean doesn’t allow a [Cause] subject. The findings offer clarification on why EO verbs present greater difficulties than ES verbs, and why, within EO verbs, non-volitional EO verbs are particularly challenging for L2 English learners. This study also presents a pedagogical implication that teachers and English text books put special focus on psychological verbs, especially non-volitional causative verbs such as The news concerned me, which is often considered bad or not produced by L2 English learners.

Keywords: second language (L2) acquisition, L1 influence, English psychological verbs, EO verbs, ES verbs, cause, volition, subject selection

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