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Bookmark and Share Paper 2934

The Acquisition of Past Tense Variation by L2 Learners of Spanish in an Abroad Context
Melissa Whatley
190-205 (complete paper or proceedings contents)

Abstract

The current study analyzes linguistic and discursive constraints that govern L2 Spanish learners' selection of verb form in past-time contexts both at the beginning and at the end of a study abroad experience and compares these constraints to those governing native speakers' verb form selections. Thirty-one high school students in three proficiency groups (high, mid, and low) participating in an intensive study abroad program in Valencia, Spain, as well as 5 native speaker members of their host families, completed a highly controlled 24-item cloze task which instructed them to choose among three past tense verb forms (preterit, imperfect, and present perfect). Students completed this task at the beginning and again at the end of their 6-week long study abroad program. Data was analyzed via a regression analysis common in the field of sociolinguistics and shows to what extent several independent variables (inherent lexical aspect of the verb, time of action, discourse grounding, and presence or absence of a lexical aspectual indicator) govern participants' selection of past tense expression. While it was hypothesized that, over the course of the 6-week long study abroad program, students' constraints would change to approach those of the native speakers from the target community, results show that only the mid- and low-proficiency groups move towards native speaker tendencies. The results of the current study offer further insight into the role of the study abroad context in language acquisition, most importantly its role for learners with higher proficiencies, and provide a greater understanding of the development of past tense expression in L2 Spanish. Variation found in native speaker verb form choice in past-time narration is also discussed, signaling a need for further sociolinguistic studies of past-time narration in native speaker varieties of Spanish as well.

Published in

Selected Proceedings of the 16th Hispanic Linguistics Symposium
edited by Jennifer Cabrelli Amaro, Gillian Lord, Ana de Prada Pérez, and Jessi Elana Aaron
Table of contents
Printed edition: $310.00