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Acquisition of Spanish verbal morphology by child bilinguals: Overregularization by heritage speakers and second language learners

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 June 2020

Ana Fernández-Dobao*
Department of Spanish and Portuguese Studies, University of Washington, Box 354360, Seattle, WA 98195, United States of America
Julia Herschensohn
Department of Linguistics, University of Washington, Box 352425, Seattle, WA, 98195, United States of America
Address for correspondence: Ana Fernández-Dobao E-mail:


The current study analyzes Spanish present tense morphology with a focus on overregularization. It examines written production from two groups of English/Spanish bilingual children in a dual immersion setting, Spanish heritage language (SHL) speakers (n = 21) and Spanish second language (SL2) learners (n = 41), comparing them to age-matched (nine to ten years old) Spanish majority language children (n = 15). Spanish majority children show full mastery of present tense regular, stem-changing and irregular morphology. SHL children seem to have acquired mastery of regular inflectional morphology, but not of stem-changing morphology. SL2 children are significantly less accurate than both majority Spanish and SHL children in terms of both regular and irregular morphology. Evidence of overregularization, but not of irregularization, is provided for both SHL and SL2 children. The analysis of overregularization errors supports a variational approach (Yang, 2016) to acquisition, storage and access of morphology.

Research Article
Copyright © The Author(s), 2020. Published by Cambridge University Press

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