Hispanic Studies Publications


Eventive and Stative Passives: The Role of Transfer in the Acquisition of ser and estar by German and English L1 Speakers

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Conference Proceeding

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Selected Proceedings of the Hispanic Linguistics Symposium

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This paper reports on an empirical study that examined knowledge of the properties of the two passives in the L2 Spanish grammar of L1 speakers of English and German. The Full Transfer Hypothesis (Schwartz and Sprouse 1994) predicts that learners should be able to acquire the relevant properties, but German speakers may have an advantage in noticing the difference. The study comprised three groups of speakers: an English L1 group, a German L1 group, and a Spanish native speaker control group. The tasks consisted of a Grammaticality Judgment Task and a Sentence Selection Task. Results showed that (a) the English group and the German group did not differ significantly, so the overt marking did not provide the learners with any advantage, and (b) both groups differed from the native speakers in the interpretation of the subject as generic, which is only possible with eventives, although this property is instantiated in their first languages. This is taken as evidence against the Full Transfer Hypothesis and in support of Selective Transfer.