The University of Southampton
University of Southampton Institutional Repository

The L2 acquisition of Spanish focus: a case of incomplete and divergent grammars

Domínguez, Laura (2007) The L2 acquisition of Spanish focus: a case of incomplete and divergent grammars In, Baauw, Sergio, van Kampen, Jacqueline and Pinto, Manuela (eds.) The Acquisition of Romance Languages: Selected papers from The Romance Turn II 2006. Utrecht, The Netherlands, LOT pp. 45-57. (LOT Occasional Series, 8).

Record type: Book Section


It is commonly assumed that non-native optionality, i.e. where two competing grammars exist in the mental representation of L2 learners, is a common feature of developing grammars even at advanced proficiency levels (White 1991, 1992, Eubank 1994, Sorace, 1993, 1999, 2000, Prévost and White 2000). In this study we focus on the source of such optionality arguing that certain errors found in advanced non-native grammars cannot be sufficiently accounted for as simple transfers from the learner’s L1. Our study builds upon the observation that real optionality in native grammars is in fact difficult to verify (Papp 2000, Parodi and Tsimpli 2005) and that whereas two possible variations of the structure may coexist in the target grammar, the contexts in which the forms are used are not easily identified. Consequently, the linguistic evidence from which L2 learners create grammatical assumptions can be quite ambiguous. Given such obvious lack of robustness in the input, the learnability task is made considerably more difficult and presumably learners will face longer periods of grammatical indeterminacy even at advanced levels of proficiency. Even though it is commonly assumed that optional constructions surface in both incomplete and divergent L2 near-native grammars, the source of such optionality remains unclear, and it is generally assumed that learners may revert to their native language when they find difficulty in inducing the rules of the target grammar (Sorace 1993, Papp 2000). In this respect the acquisition of focus in Spanish is a good test ground because the native input is ambiguous, there is more than one way of marking focus (Zubizarreta 1998, Domínguez 2004), and also because advanced learners encounter problems acquiring the pragmatic conditions that constrain word order alterations in focused sentences (Ocampo 1990, Hertel 2003, De Miguel 1993, Lozano 2006).

Microsoft Word acquisition_romance_languages_dominguez.doc - Author's Original
Download (562kB)

More information

Published date: 2007
Keywords: second language acquisition, spanish, word order, focus, optionality


Local EPrints ID: 63851
ISBN: 9789078328469
PURE UUID: b1a9ee5a-5702-430f-9cd3-9e2d16c150f7

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 11 Nov 2008
Last modified: 17 Jul 2017 14:15

Export record


Editor: Sergio Baauw
Editor: Jacqueline van Kampen
Editor: Manuela Pinto

University divisions

Download statistics

Downloads from ePrints over the past year. Other digital versions may also be available to download e.g. from the publisher's website.

View more statistics

Atom RSS 1.0 RSS 2.0

Contact ePrints Soton:

ePrints Soton supports OAI 2.0 with a base URL of

This repository has been built using EPrints software, developed at the University of Southampton, but available to everyone to use.

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you continue without changing your settings, we will assume that you are happy to receive cookies on the University of Southampton website.