The Late(r) Bird Gets the Verb? Effects of Age of Acquisition of English on Adult Heritage Speakers’ Knowledge of Subjunctive Mood in Spanish




Many previous studies have found that adult heritage speakers exhibit significant variability in their production and comprehension of mood morphology in Spanish. Nonetheless, it remains unclear what specific factors predict heritage speakers’ likelihood of exhibiting such variability. The present study contributes to this question by testing the effect of both (a) age-of-acquisition of English and (b) Spanish proficiency on heritage speakers’ productive and receptive knowledge of mood morphology. Seventeen “early” heritage speakers (age of acquisition of English: 0 to 3.5 years), 20 “late” heritage speakers (age of acquisition of English: 4 to 6 years), and 18 later childhood immigrants (age of arrival in the US: 8 to 12 years) completed a Contextualized Elicited Production Task and a Mood Preference Task. Results of the two experiments suggest that the later childhood immigrants, despite “overusing” subjunctive in +Presupposition adjectival relative clauses, are significantly more likely than “early” and “late” heritage speakers to produce and prefer subjunctive mood in expected subjunctive contexts (with para que and in -Presupposition adjectival relative clauses). Within the heritage speaker groups, however, Spanish proficiency was a stronger predictor of subjunctive knowledge than age of acquisition of English, a finding with implications for both heritage language research and pedagogy.

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Copyright © 2019, David Giancaspro, Languages, EISSN 2226-471X, Published by MDPI.

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