This investigation addresses the influence of linguistic contextual features on variation in second language copula choice across elicitation tasks. It is hypothesized that in addition to the task characteristics examined in previous research, such as planning time and discourse cohesion, the frequency with which linguistic contextual variables appear across tasks is also an essential component of variation in learner use. In tasks where learners produce language, the researcher is not able to control these frequencies since they are dependent on the learner's choices about what to say. The data from the current investigation come from intermediate-level English-speaking learners of Spanish (N=24) who completed a guided interview and a picture-description task. These data were analyzed by coding each token for independently motivated lexical, semantic, and pragmatic variables shown in previous research to influence copula choice. Results suggest that variation in copula use across tasks may be a response to a differing frequency of linguistic contextual triggers present in that task as well as a response to other contextual differences between tasks. This research demonstrates that both language teachers and second language acquisition researchers alike must be cognizant of this additional variable and the effect it has on how learner grammars vary from one task to another.
Selected Proceedings of the 7th Conference on the Acquisition of Spanish and Portuguese as First and Second Languages
edited by Carol A. Klee and Timothy L. Face
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