LINGUIST List 12.2819

Sat Nov 10 2001

Review: Salaberry, Past Tense Morphology in L2 Spanish

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  1. Emmanuelle Labeau, review of The Development of Past Tense Morphology in L2 Spanish

Message 1: review of The Development of Past Tense Morphology in L2 Spanish

Date: Thu, 8 Nov 2001 16:03:02 +0000
From: Emmanuelle Labeau <>
Subject: review of The Development of Past Tense Morphology in L2 Spanish

Salaberry, M. Rafael (2001) The Development of Past Tense Morphology in
L2 Spanish. John Benjamins Publishing Company, viii+257pp, hardback
ISBN 1-55619-954-6, $76.00, Studies in Bilingualism 22

Salaberry's book relies on the fundamental assumption that the mastery
of a language includes knowing "the semantic values of aspectual
contrasts" (p.9) and the way how to mark them in verbal morphological

On this basis, the study tackles three major issues: (1) the sequence
of acquisition of Spanish past tense morphology by Anglophone academic
learners ; (2) the factors responsible for the distribution of
morphological endings at any stage of the learning process and (3) the
role of instruction in the developmental pattern. According to the
author, the study can be justified on the following grounds: (i) the
scarcity of aspectual development in general and in Spanish in
particular, (ii) the cross-sectional and longitudinal dimensions
allowed by the data, (iii) the fact that aspect development is studied
through the medium of a variety of tasks and (iv) the inclusion of less
common tasks such as oral narratives and the recourse to joint problem-
solving think-aloud exercises where pairs of students discuss their
answers to a cloze test and acceptability judgements.

The book initially provides the background to the actual analysis.
After an introduction where the general purposes are spelled out, the
second chapter presents the problems faced by English native speakers
when learning Spanish, before describing the notion of aspect within
the context of temporality marking. Chapters 3 and 4 respectively are
devoted to literature reviews of tense and aspect in L1 and L2
acquisition. Salaberry's original contribution is presented in the last
three chapters: chapter 5 describes the design of the research, chapter
6 offers the results of the study whilst in chapter 7, those results
are compared to other related research projects. Appendixes include the
material used for data collection as well as a very small sample which
could be expounded upon of the production on which the study is based.

Let's try now to evaluate Salaberry's contribution. First, the study is
consistently backed by previous research. The second chapter, devoted
to aspect, offers while offering a good overview of the topic, focuses
almost exclusively on lexical aspect and relies heavily on the Anglo-
Saxon tradition. Some interesting insights from Francophone research on
aspect (as provided by Guillaume and his followers, for example) could
have been introduced here.

Although the development of aspect in first language acquisition is
covered only briefly (14 pages), the longest chapter (a fourth of the
book) tackles it in second language acquisition. An impressive
literature review is provided as well as a selection of previous
empirical studies dealing with Romance languages (Spanish, French and
also Portuguese).

The design of the research design is clearly presented and justified in
chapter 5. There is an obvious care to integrate the research within
the existing field - for instance in the choice of the film extracts
used as a basis for the narrative- whilst at the same time using new
developments such as the joint editing tasks.

Chapter 6 provides a thorough analysis of data from a variety of
viewpoints and is generally clearly and systematically presented. As
the concluding chapter replaces the results within the context of
earlier studies, it somewhat blurs the actual input of the present

In conclusion, this book is interesting for various reasons. It offers
some good theoretical information on aspect acquisition in general; it
also offers a clear and well-designed analysis based on a good
knowledge of earlier studies. The development of past tense morphology
in L2 Spanish is thus not strictly addressed to researchers working on
Spanish but also to those focussing on other languages, especially
French. It finally also provides a good example of the interaction
between linguistic description and applied linguistics: a trend that is
beneficial to both fields.

Emmanuelle Labeau is a lecturer in the School of Languages and European
Studies of Aston University (Birmingham, Great Britain). Her research
interests include French past tenses, evolution of French and French in
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