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A Longitudinal Study of Copula Choice: Following Development in Variable Structures
Kimberly L. Geeslin and Pedro Guijarro-Fuentes
144-156 (complete paper or proceedings contents)


This investigation explores the acquisition of the copula contrast in Spanish. This contrast between ser 'to be' and estar 'to be' is of interest because native speakers vary (socially and situationally) in their choice between the two. This variation makes it impossible to assess learner choices for accuracy in all contexts. The study examines longitudinal data from 7 English-speaking learners of Spanish as a second language in the UK. Each participant completed a background questionnaire, a proficiency test and a contextualized preference task at 4 times during the course of 3 years of language study. Data from 19 native speakers of Spanish were also collected and these data were used to identify the obligatory and the variable contexts on the contextualized preference task. Somewhat surprisingly, it was found that these second language learners are more accurate with estar than with ser. There is also evidence that the u-shaped development found in the general analysis of copula choice disappears when contexts are analyzed according to rates of native speaker use.

Published in

Selected Proceedings of the 9th Hispanic Linguistics Symposium
edited by Nuria Sagarra and Almeida Jacqueline Toribio
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Printed edition: $250.00