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The acquisition of variable past-time expression in L2 Spanish: combining concept-oriented, form-oriented, and variationist research traditions within functionalism

Teran, Virginia (2020) The acquisition of variable past-time expression in L2 Spanish: combining concept-oriented, form-oriented, and variationist research traditions within functionalism. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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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.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairKanwit,
Committee CoChairShirai,
Committee MemberGooden,
Committee MemberJuffs,
Date: 8 June 2020
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 19 March 2020
Approval Date: 8 June 2020
Submission Date: 10 April 2020
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 786
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Hispanic Linguistics
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Second language acquisition L2 Spanish Tense-Aspect morphology Past-time expression
Date Deposited: 08 Jun 2020 17:05
Last Modified: 08 Jun 2020 17:05


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