L2 acquisition of Spanish dative clitics by English and Dutch learners

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M. Ángeles Escobar-Álvarez


This article examines the second language acquisition (SLA) of Spanish dative clitics in clitic doubling (CLD) structures that are closely related to the double object construction (DOC) in English and Dutch. It also addresses the question of how adult English and Dutch speakers learning L2 Spanish in a formal setting develop knowledge and use of the animacy constraint in the target language, which is different from the first language (L1) counterparts. The role of transfer in acquiring new syntactic structures has been taken into account, where dative clitics appear and animate objects are marked by the dative preposition ‘to.’ New findings are obtained on CLD and the Spanish animacy constraint from a grammaticality judgement task (GJT), completed by English and Dutch learners at B1 and B2 CEFR levels. The difficulties learners experienced were not always due to negative L1 transfer, but also related to the complexity of the argument structure where the clitic is inserted. This has clear implications for the teaching of pronominal elements which are closely related to different syntactic configurations in Spanish.


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How to Cite
Escobar-Álvarez, M. Ángeles. (2017). L2 acquisition of Spanish dative clitics by English and Dutch learners. Studies in Second Language Learning and Teaching, 7(3), 517-534. https://doi.org/10.14746/2017.7.3.8
Author Biography

M. Ángeles Escobar-Álvarez, The National Distance Education University (UNED), Madrid, Spain



M. Ángeles Escobar-Álvarez holds a PhD in Linguistics from the University of Utrecht, The Netherlands and works as Associate Professor of English Studies and Linguistics at the The National Distance Education University (UNED), Madrid, Spain. Prior to this position she has been Visiting Scholar at the University of South California (USC), Los Angeles, USA, at the University of Massachusetts (UMAS), Boston, USA and at the Universidad Autonoma de Barcelona (UAB), Spain. Her research interests are in first language acquisition (Spanish L1), second language acquisition (English L2 and Spanish L2) and bilingualism (English/Spanish; Catalan/Spanish). Her recent work includes the volumes co-edited with Vicens Torrens The acquisition of syntax of Romance languages (2006, John Benjamins) and The processing of lexicon and morphosyntax (2014, Cambridge Scholars), and the articles co-authored with Ivan Teomiro “The acquisition of dative ‘se’ in L1 Spanish and its implications for the weak continuity hypothesis of acquisition of functional categories” (2013, RESLA) and “The gradual acquisition of clitic ‘se’ in Spanish L2” (2016, Topics in Linguistics). Contact details: Department of Foreign Languages, Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia, Po. Senda del Rey-7, 28040 Madrid, Spain


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