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L2 Acquisition of Temporal Reference in Spanish and the Interaction of Adverbials, Morphology and Clause Structure
Margaret Lubbers Quesada
157-168 (complete paper or proceedings contents)


This study examines the expression of past temporal reference in the personal oral narratives of learners of Spanish as a second language from a meaning-oriented perspective in order to identify which lexical, morphological and syntactic devices learners use for marking past events. It has been suggested in the literature that an increase in the use of tense-aspect morphology is accompanied by a decrease in the use of adverbials and a greater use of subordination (Bardovi-Harlig 2000). After examining the oral narratives of thirty learners and ten native speakers of Spanish, it was found that although learners gradually incorporate more complex adverbials and in general, more subordinate clauses into their narrative structure, adverbial use does not decline but rather increases as past morphology develops. As learners acquire a wider variety of adverbials, they are able to use them in more complex ways, not just to mark the sequential chaining of events but to establish a greater range of temporal relations among several events or episodes. In addition, the analysis revealed that although lower level learners do not demonstrate any clear patterns of use with preterite and imperfect and different types of temporal and frequency adverbs, advanced learners and native speakers follow a general tendency to link more temporal adverbs with preterite marked verbs and frequency adverbs with imperfect. This is congruent with numerous findings in Spanish L2 which have demonstrated that learners follow a general path of acquisition and use where they link telic verbs with preterite and stative verbs with imperfect. The results presented here reveal that the acquisition of temporal reference in Spanish is an intricate process of developing and manipulating lexical, semantic, morphological and syntactic devices and, in the process, brings to light how the expression of meaning moves from lexical and pragmatic to morphological and syntactic means, not by substituting one device for another, but rather by incorporating elements of each stage into the next in increasingly more complex ways.

Published in

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