L3 Acquisition of the Spanish Subjunctive: Contexts Where Mood Can Alternate Without Ungrammaticality

  • Audrey Restorick Elordi
Part of the Second Language Learning and Teaching book series (SLLT)


Our study looks at how crosslinguistic transfer affects the degree of attainment of one morphosyntactic-pragmatics interface structure in particular: the subjunctive in French and Spanish in contexts where mood can alternate without ungrammaticality. In addition to French and Spanish control groups containing speakers of a variety of dialects, our participants consist of advanced Anglophone learners of L2 French, advanced Anglophone learners of L2 Spanish, and advanced Anglophone learners of L2 French and L3 Spanish. The results from our selection scenario task suggest that positive crosslinguistic influence occurs both from the direction of the L2 to the L3 and from the L3 to the L2 since the multilingual learners outperformed the bilingual learners, most likely due to their increased exposure to the subjunctive in more than one non native tongue. Such results also suggest that adult L2 learners are better able to acquire an interface phenomenon when they are also learning an L3 which uses it in the same way, because they are able to advantageously apply their knowledge of this concept in French to Spanish, and vice versa. As a central question in regards to L2 adult learners is their ability to successfully acquire interface phenomena, our findings lead us to join the side of the debate that believes a near-native competence is possible despite the difficulties acquisition of these phenomena entail.


Target Language Interface Phenomenon Subordinate Clause Bare Noun French Student 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Bayona, P. 2009. Crosslinguistic influences in the acquisition of Spanish L3. PhD thesis, The University of Western Ontario.Google Scholar
  2. Borgonovo, C. and J.P. Prévost. 2003. Knowledge of polarity subjunctive in L2 Spanish. Proceedings of the 27 th BUCLD, 150–161. Sommerville, MA: Cascadilla Press.Google Scholar
  3. Borgonovo, C., J. Bruhn de Garavito and J.P. Prévost. 2006. Is the sematics/syntax interface vulnerable in L2 acquisition?: focus on mood distinctions in relative clauses in L2 Spanish. In The acquisition of syntax in Romance languages, eds. V. Torrens and L. Escobar, 353–369. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.Google Scholar
  4. Borgonovo, C., J. Bruhn de Garavito and J.P. Prévost. 2008. Methodological issues in the L2 acquisition of a syntax/semantic phenomenon: how to assess L2 knowledge of mood in Spanish relative clauses. In Proceedings of the 10 th Linguistics Symposium, eds. J. Bruhn de Garavito and E. Valenzuela,13-24. Sommerville, MA: Cascadilla Proceedings Project.Google Scholar
  5. Cenoz, J. 2001. The effect of linguistic distance, L2 status and age on cross-linguistic influence in third language acquisition. In Cross-linguistic influence in third language acquisition: psycholinguistic perspectives, eds. J. Cenoz, B. Hufeisen and U. Jessner, 8–20. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.Google Scholar
  6. De Angelis, G. and L. Selinker. 2001. Interlanguage transfer and competing linguistic systems in the multilingual mind. In Cross-linguistic influence in third language acquisition, eds. J. Cenoz, B. Hufeisen and U. Jessner, 42–57. Great Britain: Cromwell Press.Google Scholar
  7. De Angelis, G. 2007. Third or additional language acquisition. England: Multilingual Matters.Google Scholar
  8. Dekydspotter, L. and R. Sprouse. 2001. Mental design and (second) language epistemology: adjectival restrictions of wh-quantifiers and tense in English-French interlanguage. Second Language Research 17: 1–35.Google Scholar
  9. Dewaele, J.-M. 1998. Lexical inventions: French interlanguage as L2 versus L3. Applied Linguistics 19.4: 471–490.Google Scholar
  10. Döpke, S. 1998. Competing language structures: the acquisition of verb placement by bilingual German-English children. Journal of Child Language 25: 555–584.Google Scholar
  11. Farkas, D. 1985. Intensional descriptions and the Romance subjunctive mood. New York: Garland.Google Scholar
  12. Filiaci, C. 2003. The acquisition of null overt subjects by English near-native speakers of Italian. M.Sc. dissertation, University of Edinburgh.Google Scholar
  13. Giannakidou, A. 1998. Polarity sensitivity as (non)veridical dependency. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.Google Scholar
  14. Hawkins, J. 1978. Definiteness and indefiniteness: a study in reference and grammaticality prediction. London: Croom Helm.Google Scholar
  15. Hulk, A. and M. Müller. 2000. Bilingual first language acquisition at the interface between syntax and pragmatics. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition 3.3: 227–244.Google Scholar
  16. Möhle, D. 1989. Multilingual interaction in foreign language production. In Interlingual Processes, eds. W.H. Dechert and M. Raupach, 179-194. Tübingen: Gunter Narr Verlag.Google Scholar
  17. Montrul, S. 2004. The acquisition of Spanish. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.Google Scholar
  18. Müller, N. and A. Hulk. 2001. Cross-linguistic influence in bilingual language acquisition: Italian and French as recipient languages. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition 4.1: 1–21.Google Scholar
  19. Odlin, T. 1989. Language Transfer. Cross-linguistic influence in language learning. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  20. Pérez-Saldanya, M. 1999. El modo en las subordinadas relativas y adverbiales. In Gramática descriptiva de la lengua española, eds. I. Bosque and V. Demonte, 3253-3323. Madrid: Espasa Calpe.Google Scholar
  21. Poplack, S. 1992. The inherent variability of the French subjunctive. In Theoretical analyses in Romance linguistics, eds. C. Laeufer and T. Morgan, 235–263. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. Google Scholar
  22. Quer, J. 1998. Mood at the Interface. Amsterdam: Holland Academic Graphics.Google Scholar
  23. Schmitt, C. and K. Miller. 2007. Making discourse-dependent decisions: the case of the copulas ser and estar in Spanish. Lingua 117: 1907-1929.Google Scholar
  24. Serratrice, L., A. Sorace and S. Paoli. 2004. Cross-linguistic influence at the syntax-pragmatics interface: subjects and objects in Italian-English bilingual and monolingual acquisition. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition 7: 183-205.Google Scholar
  25. Sorace, A. 2000. Differential effects of attrition in the L1 syntax of near-native L2 speakers. In Proceedings of the 24 th Boston University Conference on Language Development, eds. S.C. Howell, S.A. Fish and T. Keith-Lucas, 719–725. Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Press.Google Scholar
  26. Sorace, A. 2003. Near-nativeness. In The handbook of second language acquisition, eds. C. Doughty and M. Long, 130-151. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  27. Sorace, A. 2004. Native language attrition and developmental instability at the syntax-discourse interface: Data, interpretations and methods. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition 7: 143–145.Google Scholar
  28. Sorace, A. 2005. Syntactic optionality at interfaces. In Syntax and variation: reconciling the biological and the social, L. Cornips and K. Corrigan, 46-111. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.Google Scholar
  29. Sorace, A., L. Serratrice, F. Filiaci and M. Baldo. 2009. Discourse conditions on subject pronoun realization: testing the linguistic intuitions of older bilingual children. Lingua 119: 460–477.Google Scholar
  30. Tsimpili, I. and A. Sorace. 2006. Differentiating interfaces: L2 performance in syntax-semantics and syntax-discourse phenomena. Proceedings of the 30 th Annual Boston University Conference on Language Development, 653–664. Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Press.Google Scholar
  31. White, L. 2008. Interfaces and L2 knowledge. Unpublished manuscript, McGill University.Google Scholar
  32. Williams, S. and B. Hammarberg. 1998. Language switches in L3 production: implications for a polyglot speaking model. Applied Linguistics 19.3: 295–333.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Le département d’études françaisesThe University of Western OntarioLondonCanada

Personalised recommendations