Prototypical inﬂuence in second language acquisition:
What now for the Aspect Hypothesis1
This paper presents empirical evidence on the development of aspect by English- and German-speaking university learners of French L2 collected from a spoken narrative task and a sentence interpretation task. Contrary to the Aspect Hypothesis’s predictions, this study’s results suggest that increased use of prototypical pairings goes in hand with increased L2 proﬁciency. Following a small but growing number of studies, this study questions the route of L2 development proposed by the Aspect Hypothesis.
For a long time now, research on the development of aspect in a second language (L2) has almost dutifully considered the predictions made by the Aspect Hypothesis (Andersen and Shirai 1994, 1996). The hypothesis adopts a bidimensional approach to aspect (Bertinetto, 2001, Depraetere 1995, Smith 1997) in which aspectual information is split into two types of universal semantic information: (1) the inherent semantics of verbs/predicates/sentences (situation aspect) and (2) the particular perspective from which situations are presented (viewpoint aspect). In languages that map viewpoint aspect to tense (e.g., French, Spanish), the Aspect Hypotheses (AH) claims that certain viewpoint aspect meanings are initially only used with particular situation aspect types (e.g., perfective viewpoint initially used with telic situation types). A number of studies claim to ﬁnd empirical support in the AH’s predictions for L2 development (e.g. Bardovi-Harlig and Bergström 1996, Comajoan 2006).
1. This research was supported by the School of Modern Languages at Newcastle University and the Association for French Language Studies. I would like to thank the anonymous IRAL reviewers for their valuable comments as well as Florence Myles, Richard Waltereit, Laura Domínguez and Nicole Tracy-Ventura.
IRAL 51 (2013), 299–322
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c Walter de Gruyter
However, more recently, researchers have questioned the AH both in terms of its predictions (Ayoun and Salaberry 2005, Domínguez et al., in press, Labeau 2005, Salaberry, 2008) and the rationale underlying its predictions (McManus 2011, Slabakova 2002). The present study supports a small but growing body of evidence that fails to substantiate the AH’s predictions. However, it differs markedly from previous research on the development of aspect in a L2 by triangulating production and interpretation data with learners (n=75) from different ﬁrst language backgrounds (English and German) learning the same L2 (French) at two different proﬁciency levels.
In this paper I analyse empirical evidence on the development of aspect by English- and German-speaking university learners of French L2 collected from a spoken narrative task (Natalie et Albert) and a sentence interpretation task. This analysis shows that, contrary to the AH’s predictions, increased use of prototypical pairings goes in hand with increased L2 proﬁciency.
Aspect deals with two types of universal semantic information: (1) the inherent semantics of verbs/predicates/sentences (situation aspect, or lexical aspect) and (2) the particular perspective from which situations are presented (viewpoint aspect, or grammatical aspect), deﬁned as ‘the semantic domain of the temporal structure of situations and their presentation’ (Smith 1997: 01). Following Smith (1997), aspect necessarily involves the interaction between viewpoint aspect and situation aspect.
The inherent semantics of predicates is traditionally referred to as lexical aspect, or Situation Aspect (Smith 1997), and deals with Vendler’s (1957, 1967) classiﬁcation of verbs/predicates into four lexical semantic classes based on their inherent...
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