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The L2 Acquisition of Variable Perfective Past Time Reference in Spanish in an Overseas Immersion Setting
Kimberly L. Geeslin, Lorenzo J. García-Amaya, Maria Hasler-Barker, Nicholas C. Henriksen, and Jason Killam
197-213 (complete paper or proceedings contents)


The effect of a study abroad experience and the L2 acquisition of variation are two interconnected research areas in the field of second language acquisition (SLA). The current study combines these areas by exploring language development of L2 use of perfective past time reference in Spanish during a 7-week immersion program. Sociolinguistic research indicates that dialects of Spanish vary in the frequency of use of the present perfect and also in the linguistic factors that govern its use (Howe and Schwenter, 2008; Kempas, 1994; Schwenter, 1994; Schwenter and Torres Cacoullos, 2008). Although native-like variation is an essential part of Communicative Competence (Canale and Swain, 1980), research on the development of socially-conditioned variation is in its early stages. The current study answers the following research questions: (1) What changes in frequency can be found across time in study abroad immersion learners' use of the present perfect and preterit? (2) What linguistic and social variables predict this use across time? (3) How does this use compare to that of NSs in the same region? The analysis is based on data from 33 NNSs of Spanish participating in a highly selective abroad immersion program for incoming high school seniors and from 24 NSs residing in León, Spain, all of whom completed a background questionnaire, a proficiency test, and a contextualized preference task. The findings show that NNSs increased use of the present perfect from Time 1 to Time 2, but then decreased this use at Time 3, approximating NS norms. A similar trend was found for the linguistic variables that governed use of the preterit or present perfect, although certain non-linguistic factors also motivated NNS use.

Published in

Selected Proceedings of the 14th Hispanic Linguistics Symposium
edited by Kimberly Geeslin and Manuel Díaz-Campos
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Printed edition: $295.00