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Bookmark and Share Paper 3089

Direct Object Marking and Word Order Processing in Spanish: An Unclear Connection
Jason Killam
101-109 (complete paper or proceedings contents)


The present study addresses the acquisition in Spanish of what has been termed the "personal a" rule as it relates to object marking in SVO and OVS structures. Early studies (Glisan, 1985; LoCoco, 1987; VanPatten, 1984) make note of the "personal a" rule and point out that lower level language learners are not able to use this form effectively to attenuate the assigning of agent status to the first noun (Bever, 1970). Through the use of an oral task and a written contextualized task designed to elicit object marking in SVO sentences with human direct objects, as well as a processing task using VanPatten's (1984) methodology for OVS interpretation, insights are discovered concerning object marking and its connection to OVS word processing. The participants (N=102), all from a large Midwestern university, were drawn from four groups including 28 at the second year level, 28 at the third year level, 22 at the fourth year level, and 24 graduate students. Results show that learners fall into one of four patterns, two of which indicate that the acquisition of object marking in pre-verbal position and object marking in post-verbal position are not linked. Some learners are unable to produce object marking in SVO structures but receive perfect scores on the OVS interpretation task. Other learners show native-like production of marking in the SVO task but are unable to interpret any OVS sentences even though all include overt object marking. This suggests the lack of an elegant "personal a" rule that becomes incorporated in stages into the developing system. Rather, the acquisition of object marking in SVO and OVS structures appear to be acquired independently of each other.

Published in

Selected Proceedings of the 2012 Second Language Research Forum: Building Bridges between Disciplines
edited by Ryan T. Miller, Katherine I. Martin, Chelsea M. Eddington, Ashlie Henery, Nausica Marcos Miguel, Alison M. Tseng, Alba Tuninetti, and Daniel Walter
Table of contents
Printed edition: $290.00