This study examined the L2 acquisition of Differential Object Marking (DOM, or the Spanish a-personal) by native English-speaking learners. Sixty L2 learners of Spanish enrolled in an intermediate-level language course participated in the study, as did a baseline group of 12 native Spanish-speakers from a variety of countries. All learners completed two grammaticality judgment tests that required them to rate sentences containing both animate and inanimate objects. Between the two tests, half of the L2 learners (N=30) completed an online instructional module which provided them with explicit instruction, practice, and immediate feedback on the target structure. The other half of the L2 learners (N=30) served as a control, receiving no instruction on DOM between the tests. Results showed that native speakers' judgments of the sentences were significantly different from those of the L2 learners and that the instructed L2 group significantly outperformed the uninstructed L2 control group, particularly on rating ungrammatical animate sentences. The results of the study therefore show that instruction enables L2 learners to restructure their interlanguages and to overcome the structure imposed by their L1 (Schwartz & Sprouse, 1996). Nevertheless, the learners did not master the rules for DOM, not surprisingly given the short duration of the study, and were still far from native-like at the conclusion of the study.
Selected Proceedings of the 10th Hispanic Linguistics Symposium
edited by Joyce Bruhn de Garavito and Elena Valenzuela
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