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


instructed SLA
closely-related languages
language transfer

How to Cite

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

Number of views: 946

Number of downloads: 464


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.



Amenós-Pons, J. (2010). Los tiempos de pasado del español y el francés: Semántica, pragmática y aprendizaje de E/LE. Perspectivas desde la Teoría de la Relevancia (Unpublished PhD thesis). Madrid: UNED.

Amenós-Pons, J. (2015). Spanish ‘Imperfecto’ vs. French ‘Imparfait’ in hypothetical clauses: A procedural account. Cahiers Chronos, 27, 243-271.

Andersen, R. W., & Shirai, Y. (1996). Primacy of aspect in first and second language acquisition: The pidgin/creole connection. In W. C. Ritchie & T. K. Bhatia (Eds.), Handbook of second language acquisition (pp. 527-570). San Diego: Academic Press.

Ayoun, D., & Rothman, J. (2013). Generative approaches to the L2 acquisition of temporal-aspectual-mood systems. In M. R. Salaberry & Ll. Comajoan (Eds.), Research design and methodology in studies on L2 tense and aspect (pp. 119-156). Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton.

Azzopardi, S. (2011). Le futur et le conditionnel: Valeur en langue et effets de sens en discours. Analyse contrastive espagnol/français (Unpublished PhD thesis). Montpellier: Université Paul Valéry - Montpellier III.

Bardovi-Harlig, K. (1994). Anecdote or evidence? Evaluating support for hypotheses concerning the development of tense and aspect. In S. Gass, A. Cohen, & E. Tarone (Eds.), Research methodology in second language acquisition (pp. 41-60). Hillsdale: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Bardovi-Harlig, K. (2000). Tense and aspect in second language acquisition: Form, meaning and use. Malden: Blackwell.

Bertinetto, P. M. (2000). The progressive in Romance, as compared with English. In Ö. Dahl (Ed.), Tense and aspect in the languages of Europe (pp. 559-604). Berlin: Mouton De Gruyter.

Chomsky, N. (1995). The minimalist program. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Comajoan, L. (2014). Tense and aspect in second language Spanish. In K. L. Gesleen (Ed.), The handbook of Spanish second language acquisition (pp. 235-252). Chichester, West Sussex: Wiley Blackwell.

Corblin, F., & De Swart, H. (2003). Handbook of French semantics. Chicago: CSLI Publications.

Dahl, Ö., & Hedin, E. (2000). Current relevance and event reference. In Ö. Dahl (Ed.), Tense and aspect in the languages of Europe (pp. 386-401). Berlin, Mouton De Gruyter.

De Mulder, W. (2010). Mood in French. In B. Rothstein & R. Thieroff (Eds.), Mood in the languages of Europe (pp. 157-178). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Díaz, L., Bel, A., & Bekiou, K. (2007). The role of morphological features in the acquisition of Spanish aspectual differences. In J. Liceras, H. Zobl, & H.

Goodluck (Eds.), The role of formal features in second language acquisition (pp. 485-511). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Dietrich, R., Klein, W., & Noyau, C. (Eds.). (1995). The acquisition of temporality in a second language. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Escandell-Vidal, V., & Leonetti, M. (2003). On the quotative readings of Spanish imperfecto. Cuadernos de Lingüística, X, 135-154.

Gosselin, L. (1999). La valeur de l’imparfait et du conditionnel dans les systèmes hypothétiques, Cahiers Chronos, 4, 29-51.

Laca, B. (2010). Mood in Spanish. In B. Rothstein & R. Thieroff (Eds.), Mood in the languages of Europe (pp. 198-220). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Lardiere, D. (2008). Feature assembly in second language in second language acquisition. In J. Liceras, H. Zobl & H. Goodluck (Eds.), Features in second language acquisition (pp. 106-140). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Lardiere, D. (2009). Some thoughts on a contrastive analysis of feature in second language acquisition. Second Language Research, 25(2), 173-227.

Lindstedt, J. (2000). The perfect: Aspectual, temporal and evidential. In Ö. Dahl (Ed.), Tense and aspect in the languages of Europe (pp. 365-384). Berlin, Mouton De Gruyter.

Lorenzo, C. de. (2002). Les relations temporo-aspectuelles dans le récit oral en français et en castillan, langues premières et langues étrangères (Unpublished PhD thesis). Nanterre: Université de Nanterre – Paris X.

Montrul, S. (2004). Interpreting mood distinctions in Spanish as a heritage language. In K. Potowski & R. Cameron (Eds.), Spanish in contact. Policy, social and linguistic inquiries (pp. 23-40). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Montrul, S., & Slabakova, R. (2002). Acquiring morphosyntactic and semantic properties of preterite and imperfect tenses in L2 Spanish. In. A. T. Pérez-Leroux & J. Liceras (Eds.), The acquisition of Spanish morphosyntax: The L1-L2 Connection (pp. 113-149). Dordrecht: Kluwer.

Real Academia Española/Asociación de Academias de la Lengua Española. (2009). Nueva gramática de la lengua española. Madrid: Espasa.

Salaberry, R. (1999). The development of past tense verbal morphology in classroom L2 Spanish. Applied Linguistics, 20(2), 151-178.

Salaberry, R. (2011). Assessing the effect of lexical aspect and grounding on the acquisition of L2 Spanish past tense morphology among L1 English speakers. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 14, 184-202.

Sharwood Smith, M., & Truscott, J. (2014). The multilingual mind. A modular processing perspective. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Sorace, A., & Filiaci, F. (2006). Anaphora resolution in near-native speakers of Italian. Second Language Research, 22(3), 339-368.

Sorace, A., & Serratrice, L. (2009). Internal and external interfaces in bilingual language development: Beyond structural overlap. Interlanguage Journal of Bilingualism, 13, 1-16.

Sorace, A. (2011). Pinning down the concept of ‘interface’ in bilingualism. Linguistic Approaches to Bilingualism, 1(1), 1-33.

VanPatten, B. (1996). Input processing and grammar instruction: Theory and research. Nordwood, NJ: Ablex.