Skip to main content

The Primacy of Aspect: Aspectual Marking in English Interlanguage

  • Richard E. Robison (a1)

Studies of first and second language acquisition have indicated that when verbal morphemes first appear, they tend to mark aspectual distinctions in non-native-like ways. This study tested the hypothesis that in L2 acquisition, verbal morphemes initially mark lexical aspect—the temporal features inherent in the semantics of a predicate, independent of the time line—regardless of their function in the target language. To reduce the subjectivity that has weakened previous studies, operational tests—which entailed inserting a base-form verb phrase into a frame and then judging whether the result is acceptable—were used to determine lexical aspect for each of over 550 verb tokens in the corpus, based on an interlanguage sample from a native speaker of Spanish. The results of a chi-square test allow rejection of the null hypothesis—that lexical aspect and morphology are independent—at the .001 confidence level. Past marking was found to correlate with punctual aspect, -ing with durative.

Hide All
Andersen, R. (1986). Interpreting data: Second language acquisition of verbal aspect. Unpublished manuscript, University of California, Los Angeles.
Andersen, R. (in press). Developmental sequences: The emergence of aspect marking in second language acquisition. In Huebner, T. & Ferguson, C. A. (Eds.), Cross-currents in second language acquisition and linguistic theories. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Antinucci, F., & Miller, R. (1976). How children talk about what happened. Journal of Child Language, 3, 169189.
Bickerton, D. (1981). Roots of language. Ann Arbor, MI: Karoma.
Bloom, L., Lifter, K., & Afitz, J. (1980). Semantics of verbs and the development of verb inflection in child language. Language, 56, 386412.
Bronckart, J. P., & Sinclair, H. (1973). Time, tense, and aspect. Cognition, 2, 107130.
Comrie, B. (1976). Aspect. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Economides, P. J. (1985). The expression of tense and aspect in the English interlanguage of a Vietnamese child. Unpublished Master's thesis, University of California, Los Angeles.
Flashner, V. (1982). The English interlanguage of three native speakers of Russian: Two perspectives. Unpublished Master's thesis, University of California, Los Angeles.
Klein, W. (1986). Reference to time: A frame of analysis. Unpublished manuscript, ESF Project, Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, Nijmegen, The Netherlands.
Kumpf, L. (1982). Tense, aspect, and modality in interlanguage: A discourse-functional approach. Paper presented at the 1982 TESOL convention, Honolulu, Hawaii.
Lakoff, G. (1966). Stative verbs and adjectives in English. Harvard Computational Laboratory Report NSF-17, Harvard, MA.
Mourelatos, A. (1978). Events, processes, and states. Language and Philosophy, 2, 415434.
Rothstein, G. (1985). The expression of temporality in the English interlanguage of a native Hebrew speaker. Unpublished Master's thesis, University of California, Los Angeles.
Sag, I. (1973). On the state of progress on progressives and statives. In Bailey, C.-J. N. & Shuy, R. (Eds.), New ways of variation in English (pp. 8395). Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press.
Schumann, J. (1987). The expression of temporality in basilang speech. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 9, 2142.
Stauble, A.-M. (1978). The process of decreolization: A model for second language development. Language Learning, 28, 2954.
Weist, R. M., Wysocka, H., Witdowska-Stadnick, K., Buczowska, W., & Konieczna, E. (1984). The defective tense hypothesis: On the emergence of tense and aspect in child Polish. Journal of Child Language, 11, 347374.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Studies in Second Language Acquisition
  • ISSN: 0272-2631
  • EISSN: 1470-1545
  • URL: /core/journals/studies-in-second-language-acquisition
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed