The Acquisition of Prepositional Relative Clauses by Spanish Learners of English
Betolaza Salazar, Alazne
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The acquisition of prepositional relative clauses by second language (L2) learners has become an important area in the study of Second Language Acquisition (SLA). Thus, different theories have been suggested so as to explain the acquisition process of this type of constructions, theories such as the Subset Principle and the Theory of Transfer, which go in opposite directions. With respect to the empirical research (Duffeler & Coene, 2014; Perpiñán, 2008; Sadighi et al., 2004; a.o.), it can be seen that there is not a consensus regarding the acquisition of this phenomenon, so I decided to carry out a pilot study. This study in particular focuses on the use of prepositional relative clauses by Spanish learners of English, with specific interest in the production of this phenomenon by using this construction with Pied-Piping (PiP) and Preposition Stranding (PS), taking into account that there has been scarce research about the acquisition of English prepositional relative clauses by first language (L1) Spanish speakers. For the present study, different hypotheses and predictions have been formulated taking into account the participants’ responses as the dependent variable and the independent variables age of acquisition (AoA) and input. Four Spanish learners of English and an English native speaker as control have taken part in the study as participants, and they have been classified according to their AoA and the input of English received. For the purpose of collecting information, a data elicitation task has been distributed to the participants and, then, the results have been analysed. The results stand in favour of the Subset Principle and reject the theory of L1 Negative Transfer, since participants showed a preference for the marked structure which is ungrammatical in their L1, i.e. PS, over the unmarked structure which is the only one available in their L1, i.e. PiP. However, it has been found that participants produced relative clauses with Null Prep, which is ungrammatical in both their L1 and L2, despite their native-like preference for PS. Moreover, the findings suggest that the independent variable AoA is more important than input, since those participants who were exposed to English at an earlier age have performed more target-like in the data elicitation task. The work concludes by arguing that further research is needed for a better understanding of some of the results obtained and by considering a bigger sample for a future study.