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The Acquisition of Case in Spanish Pronominal Object Clitics in English-Speaking College-Level L2 Learners

Olsen, Michael Kevin (2013) The Acquisition of Case in Spanish Pronominal Object Clitics in English-Speaking College-Level L2 Learners. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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The Second language acquisition (SLA) of Spanish pronominal object clitics (POCs) has been a topic of research with regards to clitic placement (Houston, 1997; Lee, 1987; LoCoco, 1987; VanPatten, 1984; and VanPatten & Houston 1998), acquiring specific dialectal norms (Geeslin, García-Amaya, Hasler-Barker, Henriksen, & Killam, 2010), and functional usage with datives (Zyzik, 2006). A thorough investigation of how second language (L2) learners acquire Spanish POCs in university-level Spanish classes in the United States including accusative POCs has not yet been carried out. This dissertation extends our knowledge of how these learners acquire Spanish POCs and how instruction impacts the acquisition process.

Zyzik (2006) suggested that L2 learners create a dative POC prototype based on Animacy instead of Case as native speakers do. The first study of this dissertation extends Zyzik’s work by investigating L2 learners’ processing and use of Spanish pronominal object clitics, including the accusative POCs. A total of 121 L2 learners completed sentence-completion and cloze tasks to investigate how Animacy and Case influenced the way they distinguished Spanish POCs. Results from mixed ANOVAs show that lower proficiency L2 learners base POC distinctions on Animacy. However, more advanced learners show indications of shifting toward a Case-based system.

A second study was conducted in order to test whether instruction was effective in preempting (Rutherford, 1989) an Animacy-based system. A second group of 115 L2 learners from different proficiency levels were divided into two groups (instructed and control). These participants completed similar tasks to the first study at three different times (pre-test, post-test, delayed post-test). Between the pre-test and post-test, learners in the instructed group received instruction on Spanish POCs. Results from mixed ANOVAs indicate that instruction was not more effective than exposure to Spanish POCs through the tasks performed. The finding that both participant groups showed evidence of the preemption of an Animacy-based system is taken as evidence that the tasks themselves effectively led learners to change their POC systems. An explanation of this phenomenon is that the tasks provided a type of computer-mediated processing instruction, forcing learners to process the POCs and notice additional possible contexts, effectuating the change.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Olsen, Michael Kevinmko4@pitt.eduMKO4
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairJuffs, Alanjuffs@pitt.eduJUFFS
Committee MemberMortensen, Daviddrm31@pitt.eduDRM31
Committee MemberOrtega-Llebaria, Martamao61@pitt.eduMAO61
Committee MemberDonato, Richarddonato@pitt.eduDONATO
Date: 30 September 2013
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 29 May 2013
Approval Date: 30 September 2013
Submission Date: 23 July 2013
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 282
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Linguistics
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: L2 Spanish Clitics, Second Language Acquisition, Animacy, Case, Syntax, Semantics, Foreign Language Instruction
Related URLs:
Date Deposited: 30 Sep 2013 15:02
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 14:12


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