Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy

Program

Hispanic Studies

Supervisor(s)

Silvia Perpiñan

Abstract

This study focuses on the acquisition of the compound form of the Pluperfect Subjunctive to express counterfactual meaning in the past through conditional clauses. The aim was to examine in which instances we can find the greatest difficulty in the acquisition and what are the sets of information that stem from universal mechanisms.

This study included two experiments: Experiment 1 consisted of a sentence completion task and a written production task to investigate morphological recognition and morphological written production of subjunctive and conditional forms. Experiment 2 included an interpretation and context task, a sentence selection task, and a picture-matching task to examine semantic and pragmatic knowledge.

Results for the experiment 1 on the acquisition of morphology showed that learners answered with a significant difference with respect to the group of native speakers. The learners of Spanish demonstrated difficulty with the morphological recognition and even more for the written production of the forms.

Results for the experiment 2 showed that Spanish learners answered almost native-like with respect to natives’ responses in all tasks. Results from experiment 2 showed that semantic and pragmatic knowledge is intact. These results support the Bottleneck Hypothesis (Slabakova, 2008) whose argument proposes that the difficulty stems from the morphology and a form - meaning mapping problem (cf. Lardiere, 2005), but not from the semantics, which is claimed as universal (Slabakova, 2008; cf. Jackendoff, 2003).