Adult L2 Spanish development of syntactic and discourse subject properties in an instructional setting

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Abstract

Research has shown that adult learners of L2 Spanish whose L1 is a non-null subject language know from relatively early that null and postverbal subjects are allowed in Spanish. However, the properties that constrain the native use of subjects at the syntaxdiscourse interface tend to cause persistent difficulty. This study explores the development of both syntactic and discourse subject properties of three level groups of British adult L2 Spanish learners in an instructional setting through a contextualised judgement task. Results show that adult L2 learners of Spanish acquire the relevant L2 feature specifications which constrain purely syntactic contrasts but present a delay in the discourse subject properties, particularly in the interpretation of backward anaphora in null/overt pronominal subjects in embedded clauses and the presentational focus/neutral environment distinction in postverbal subjects with unergative and unaccusative verbs. Processing difficulties and lack of positive evidence in the type of input present in instructional settings might explain the results.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)111-129
JournalRevista Espanola de Linguistica Aplicada
Volume12
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2013

Keywords

  • Adult L2A
  • L2 Spanish
  • Null subject parameter
  • Syntactic and discourse properties

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