Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The Acquisition of Variable Past-Time Expression in L2 Spanish: Combining Concept-oriented, Form-oriented, and Variationist Research Traditions Within Functionalism
by Terán, Virginia, Ph.D., University of Pittsburgh, 2020, 787; 27834326
Abstract (Summary)

The current dissertation contributes a comprehensive picture of the emergence and development of L2 Spanish past-time expression in a classroom setting (i.e., a large database corresponding to eight different proficiency levels from 1st semester to 7th/8th semester and a control group of near-native-speaker and native-speaker instructors). Such a comprehensive view was reached by the consideration of a plethora of past forms and the adoption of the most popular research traditions in the study of TA morphology: the concept-oriented, form-oriented, and the variationist research frameworks. According to the concept-oriented approach, our results showed that language complexity (i.e., embedding or syntactization) increased simultaneously with proficiency level, as did a number of non-morphological devices such as infinitive forms and verbal omission. The form-oriented approach in this dissertation yielded results that confirmed previous research: the present preceded the preterit as a default form, the preterit emerged as a default past form in the 1st semester prior to the imperfect, and both forms emerged and developed in combination with their prototypical meanings of perfectivity and imperfectivity, respectively. The other past forms (i.e., imperfect-progressive, preterit progressive, and the perfect) emerged after the preterit and imperfect but were minimally used even at higher levels, including the instructors’ group, confirming their status as peripheral gram types (Dahl, 1985). An analysis of formal accuracy indicated that both the present indicative and the preterit followed a U-shaped curve of development, with the 3rd and 4th semester levels exhibiting the highest rates of inaccurate well-formedness (e.g., overregularization, paradigm overgeneralization, etc.), whereas the imperfect showed a decreasing trend toward fewer formal errors. Lastly, the results pertaining to the variationist approach indicated that acquisition of past morphology is driven by multiple factors (i.e., lexical aspect, discourse grounding, adverbial modification, aspectual meaning, temporal reference, text type, and frequency), which have an increasing effect with increasing proficiency. Specifically, the results of mixed-effects binomial logistic regressions showed that as the learners’ verbal systems reorganized and restructured, past form usage rates became more native-like and past forms were increasingly predicted by a larger number of significant factors.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Kanwit, Matthew, Shirai, Yasuhiro
Commitee: Gooden, Shelome, Juffs, Alan
School: University of Pittsburgh
Department: Dietrich School Arts and Sciences
School Location: United States -- Pennsylvania
Source: DAI-A 82/3(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Linguistics, Foreign language education, Adult education
Keywords: L2 Spanish, Second Language Acquisition, Tense-Aspect Morphology, Variable past-time expression
Publication Number: 27834326
ISBN: 9798678118998
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