Bilingualism effects at the syntax-semantic interface: Evidence from the Spanish present tense

Julio Cesar Lopez Otero, Purdue University


The current study examines the acquisition of the semantic values of the Spanish present tense among English-speaking second language learners and Spanish heritage speakers. With a few exceptions (Cuza, 2008, 2010; Klein, 1980; Pérez-Cortés, 2012; Sánchez-Muñoz, 2004), an area of research still underexplored. The predictions for this study is that bilingualism effects will be evidenced in lower patterns of use, acceptance and preference of the simple present with an ongoing meaning in bilingual speakers, as well as preference for the progressive in ongoing contexts, as this is the pattern available in English. In addition, it is predicted that the heritage speakers will outperform the L2 learners by showing more native-like patterns, confirming previous research (Cuza & Frank, 2015; Montrul, Foote & Perpiñan, 2008). In contrast to what was predicted, the two experimental groups, crucially the group of second language learners, overextended the simple present to all ongoing situations and contexts, where the present progressive is sometimes preferred. On the other hand, the heritage speakers shower a more native-like pattern, which suggests age-related effects in their language development. I argue for morphosemantic convergence toward a less marked and less aspectually restrictive form, which is the Spanish simple present.




Cuza-Blanco, Purdue University.

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