L1 French learning of L2 Spanish past tenses: L1 transfer versus aspect and interface issues

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José Amenós Pons
Aoife Ahern
Pedro Guijarro Fuentes


This paper examines the process of acquiring L2s that are closely related to the L1 through data on how adult French speakers learning L2 Spanish in a formal setting develop knowledge and use of past tenses in this L2. We consider the role of transfer and simplification in acquiring mental representations of the L2 grammar, specifically in the area of tense and aspect, and how learners deal with integrating grammatically encoded, lexical and discursive information, including mismatching feature combinations leading to particular inferential effects on interpretation. Data is presented on the Spanish past tenses (simple and compound past, pluperfect, imperfect and progressive forms) from two tasks, an oral production filmretell and a multiple-choice interpretation task, completed by learners at A2, B1, B2 and C1 CEFR levels (N = 20-24 per level). L1 influence is progressively attenuated as proficiency increases. Difficulties were not always due to negative L1 transfer, but related also to grammar-discourse interface issues when integrating linguistic and pragmatic information in the interpretation process. This has clear implications for the teaching of closely related languages: instruction should not only focus on crosslinguistic contrasts, but also prioritize uses requiring complex interface integration, which are harder to process.


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Pons, J. A., Ahern, A., & Fuentes, P. G. (2017). L1 French learning of L2 Spanish past tenses: L1 transfer versus aspect and interface issues. Studies in Second Language Learning and Teaching, 7(3), 489-515. https://doi.org/10.14746/ssllt.2017.7.3.7
Author Biographies

José Amenós Pons, Complutense University of Madrid, Spain



José Amenós-Pons holds a PhD in Hispanic philology (Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia, Madrid, Spain) and an MA in teaching Spanish as a foreign language (Universidad de Barcelona, Spain). Currently, he teaches grammar, discourse analysis and related subjects at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Spain as well as graduate courses on second language acquisition, grammar, pragmatics and L2 teacher training courses in different institutions. His research interests cover various topics in cognitive pragmatics, second language acquisition and L2 teaching methodology. He is a member of the research group The Relationship between Grammar and the Lexicon in Spanish (Facultad de Filología, Universidad Complutense, Spain), of the Excellency Network SIGGRAM (Meaning and Grammar) and of the research project SPIRIM (The Semantics/Pragmatics Interface and the Resolution of Interpretive Mismatches), funded by the Spanish Ministry of Economy, Industry and Competitiveness. He has published several book chapters and journal articles on descriptive issues and L2 acquisition of mood, tense and aspect. Additionally, he has co-authored several language teaching textbooks. Contact details: Facultad de Filología, Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Campus de Moncloa, Plaza Menéndez Pelayo s/n, Madrid 28040, Spain

Aoife Ahern, Complutense University of Madrid, Spain



Aoife Ahern is Senior Lecturer in the Department of Language and Literature Pedagogy, Faculty of Education, Complutense University of Madrid, Spain, where she teaches courses on English as a second language teaching and acquisition, and on literacy teaching in EFL. Her research interests include second and foreign language acquisition and teaching, and pragmatics, all connected to her participation in numerous internationally funded research projects exploring the interrelations between pragmatics, semantics and grammar, the results of which have been published in journal articles, book chapters and books related to these areas. Contact details: Department of Language and Literature Pedagogy, Faculty of Education, Complutense University of Madrid, C/ Rector Royo Villanova, 1, Madrid 28040, Spain

Pedro Guijarro Fuentes, University of the Balearic Islands, Spain



Pedro Guijarro Fuentes is Professor in the Department of Spanish Philology, Modern and Classic at the University of the Balearic Islands, Spain. His main research interests revolve around the interdisciplinary field of applied Spanish linguistics, sociolinguistics, psycholinguistics and bilingualism. He has authored and co-authored numerous articles, book chapters and books, all published by various international publishers among which are John Benjamins and de Gruyter. His research has also been presented at different international forums with more than 100 papers, many of them by invitation, and published in journals such as Language Learning, Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, Cognition, Studies in Second Language Acquisition, Applied Linguistics, Applied Psycholinguistics, First Language, and Applied Linguistic Review, among others. He has also organized many professional meetings. Contact details: Departamento de Filología Española, Moderna y Clásica, Universidad de las Islas Baleares, Edifici Ramon Llull, Campus Universitari, Km. 7.5, 07122 Palma de Mallorca (Islas Baleares), España


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