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The Effect of Temporal Adverbials in the Selection of Preterit and Imperfect by Learners of Spanish L2
Jennifer L. Baker and Margaret L. Quesada
1-15 (complete paper or proceedings contents)


Adverbials are lexical resources which often guide the temporal/aspectual selection of verb morphology. Research has shown that learners focus first on content words to process meaning, and only later learn to attend to inflections (Bardovi-Harlig, 1992; Van Patten, 1996, 2004; Lee, 1998). In the acquisition of tense and aspect, it has been shown that learners comprehend the temporal chronology of L2 input more accurately and quickly when adverbials are present in addition to verb morphology (Musumeci 1989; Lee et al. 1997; Boatwright 1999). This study assesses whether the presence of adverbials affects learners' selection of preterit and imperfect. Sixty-two intermediate and advanced English-speaking learners of Spanish and ten native-speakers of Spanish read ten cloze passages, five with temporal adverbials and five without, and were asked to choose either preterit or imperfect for 26 verbs in the passages with adverbials and 26 in those without. Employing computer software to monitor responses and tabulate reaction time, results indicated that the presence of adverbials was very significant for participants' expected responses, but did not decrease their response time. Further, there were significant differences in the responses of intermediate and advanced learners as well as an interesting disparity between learners' interpretation of the adverbials as compared to that of native speakers. Adverbials of duration or frequency prompted a much higher rate of imperfect responses among learners than among native speakers. This observance of adverbials reflects the underlying influence of L1 (English) on the development of the L2 aspectual system for learners and, in contrast, shows the primacy of morphology for native speakers of Spanish. Additionally, the results show that while current instruction methods are effective in teaching learners to associate preterit with frame adverbials and imperfect with durative and frequency adverbials, this does not necessarily correlate with the choices of native speakers.

Published in

Selected Proceedings of the 2009 Second Language Research Forum: Diverse Contributions to SLA
edited by Luke Plonsky and Maren Schierloh
Table of contents
Printed edition: $240.00