The role of experience in the acquisition and production of diminutives and gender in Spanish: Evidence from L2 learners and heritage speakers

Silvina Montrul, Israel de la Fuente, Justin Davidson, Rebecca Foote

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

This study examined whether type of early language experience provides advantages to heritage speakers over second language (L2) learners with morphology, and investigated knowledge of gender agreement and its interaction with diminutive formation. Diminutives are a hallmark of Child Directed Speech in early language development and a highly productive morphological mechanism that facilitates the acquisition of declensional noun endings in many languages (Savickienė and Dressler, 2007). In Spanish, diminutives regularize gender marking in nouns with a non-canonical ending. Twenty-four Spanish native speakers, 29 heritage speakers and 37 L2 learners with intermediate to advanced proficiency completed two picture-naming tasks and an elicited production task. Results showed that the heritage speakers were more accurate than the L2 learners with gender agreement in general, and with non-canonical ending nouns in particular. This study confirms that early language experience and the type of input received confer some advantages to heritage speakers over L2 learners with early-acquired aspects of language, especially in oral production.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)87-118
Number of pages32
JournalSecond Language Research
Volume29
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2013

Keywords

  • L2 learners
  • Spanish
  • diminutives
  • grammatical gender
  • heritage speakers
  • oral production

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Linguistics and Language

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