We thank Claudia Brovetto and John Stowe for their contributions to the project. Preliminary results from this study were presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for Applied Linguistics in 2008. Support for this project was provided to MTU by the NIH under RO1 MH58189 and RO1 HD049347, by the NSF under Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant 0519133, and to HWB by the NIH under Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award 5 F31MH68143-04 from the NIMH.
Verbal Inflectional Morphology in L1 and L2 Spanish: A Frequency Effects Study Examining Storage Versus Composition
Article first published online: 17 FEB 2010
© 2010 Language Learning Research Club, University of Michigan
Volume 60, Issue 1, pages 44–87, March 2010
How to Cite
Bowden, H. W., Gelfand, M. P., Sanz, C. and Ullman, M. T. (2010), Verbal Inflectional Morphology in L1 and L2 Spanish: A Frequency Effects Study Examining Storage Versus Composition. Language Learning, 60: 44–87. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9922.2009.00551.x
- Issue published online: 17 FEB 2010
- Article first published online: 17 FEB 2010
- Revised version accepted 18 September 2009
- frequency effects
This study examines the storage versus composition of Spanish inflected verbal forms in first language (L1) and second language (L2) speakers of Spanish. L2 participants were selected to have mid-to-advanced proficiency, high classroom experience, and low immersion experience, typical of medium-to-advanced foreign language learners. Participants were shown the infinitival forms of verbs from either Class I (the default class, which takes new verbs) or Classes II and III (nondefault classes) and were asked to produce either first-person singular present tense or imperfect forms, in separate tasks. In the present tense, the L1 speakers showed inflected-form frequency effects (i.e., higher frequency forms were produced faster, which is taken as a reflection of storage) for stem-changing (irregular) verb forms from both Class I (e.g., pensar-pienso) and Classes II and III (e.g., perder-pierdo), as well as for non-stem-changing (regular) forms in Classes II/III (e.g., vender-vendo), in which the regular transformation does not appear to constitute a default. In contrast, Class I regulars (e.g., pescar-pesco), whose non-stem-changing transformation constitutes a default (e.g., it is applied to new verbs), showed no frequency effects. L2 speakers showed frequency effects for all four conditions (Classes I and II/III, regulars and irregulars). In the imperfect tense, the L1 speakers showed frequency effects for Class II/III (-ía-suffixed) but not Class I (-aba-suffixed) forms, even though both involve non-stem-change (regular) default transformations. The L2 speakers showed frequency effects for both types of forms. The pattern of results was not explained by a wide range of potentially confounding experimental and statistical factors and does not appear to be compatible with single-mechanism models, which argue that all linguistic forms are learned and processed in associative memory. The findings are consistent with a dual-system view in which both verb class and regularity influence the storage versus composition of inflected forms. Specifically, the data suggest that in L1, inflected verbal forms are stored (as evidenced by frequency effects) unless they are both from Class I and undergo non-stem-changing default transformations. In contrast, the findings suggest that at least these L2 participants may store all inflected verb forms. Taken together, the results support dual-system models of L1 and L2 processing in which, at least at mid-to-advanced L2 proficiency and lower levels of immersion experience, the processing of rule-governed forms may depend not on L1 combinatorial processes, but instead on memorized representations.