Research Project

The Emergence and Development of the Tense-aspect System in L2 Spanish

Principal Investigator
Dr Laura Dominguez, Professor Rosamond Mitchell and Professor Florence Myles

How do learners of Spanish use past tense forms? 

This ESRC-funded project contributes to our understanding of how a central component of a second language (L2) is learned – the tense/aspect system.

Previously, researchers had offered conflicting explanations of this problem. In order to test the varying claims about learning, participants in this project were required to complete tasks designed specifically to elicit rich and balanced samples of Spanish past tenses.

Our results

Sixty L2 learners of Spanish were recorded at three levels (beginner, intermediate, advanced), undertaking four oral tasks (including interview and story-telling) and a comprehension task.

Results showed that the intermediate learners were already starting to use past tense forms, and that most of the advanced learners could use them well. However, the analysis did not support either of the previous main explanations suggested for learning these tenses. Instead , the results suggest that the learning task for English speakers involves re-mapping past tense meanings onto new L2 forms.

The project has made available all the learner data including transcripts and sound files.

Key publications

SPLLOC: A new database for Spanish second language acquisition research

In this paper we introduce a newly created database titled Spanish Learner Language Oral Corpus (SPLLOC), describing the rationale underlying the database design and methodology used for its construction. The SPLLOC database has been designed to fill the existing gap in Spanish L2 resources and also to support a focused research agenda investigating learner development with respect to the verb phrase, clitic pronouns, and word order, from an interface perspective.

View the abstract and download the full paper at the John Benjamins Publishing Company.

Testing the predictions of the Feature-Assembly Hypothesis: Evidence from the L2 acquisition of Spanish aspect morphology

In this paper we discuss the validity of this prediction for the L2 acquisition of Spanish imperfect, an area of attested difficulty, which requires native speakers of English to remap semantic concepts regarding the temporal status of events onto new morphological configurations. We argue that a hypothesis, such as the FAH, which takes into account the conditions which determine the expression of aspect-related features, can adequately provide a fine-grained account of L2 variation in this grammatical domain.

To view or download the full paper please visit our research repository.

The role of dynamic contrasts in the L2 acquisition of Spanish past tense morphology

This study examines the second language acquisition of Spanish past tense morphology by three groups of English speakers (beginners, intermediates and advanced). Data elicited through one comprehension and three oral tasks show that the emergence of temporal markings is determined mainly by the dynamic/non-dynamic contrast (whether a verb is a state or an event) as beginner and intermediate speakers use Preterit with event verbs but Imperfect mainly with state verbs.

To view or download the full paper please visit our research repository.

The importance of task variability in the design of learner corpora for SLA research

This cross-sectional study investigates task variability focusing on the use of Spanish past tense morphology in a spoken learner corpus. Results demonstrate significant differences in the emergence and accurate use of past tense morphology across tasks.

To view or download the full paper please visit our research repository.

Get in touch
Centre for Research in Language Development throughout the Lifespan (LaDeLi) University of Essex
Wivenhoe Park, Colchester, CO4 3SQ
Telephone: 01206 872083