Journal of
Languages and Culture

  • Abbreviation: J. Lang. Cult.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN: 2141-6540
  • DOI: 10.5897/JLC
  • Start Year: 2010
  • Published Articles: 132

Full Length Research Paper

L2 acquisition of Spanish clitic case morphology: A generative approach

  Maurizio Santoro
  Queensborough C. College, City University of New York, 222-05 56Th Ave, Bayside, NY, 11364, 718-281-5451, New York.  
Email: [email protected]

  •  Accepted: 22 February 2011
  •  Published: 30 April 2011



The present study has investigated the phenomenon of morphological variability in interlanguage grammars. Current L2 research does not seem to agree on whether erroneous morphological forms noticeable even in advanced and end-state. L2 grammars are due to an underlying syntactic impairment or learners’ performance limitations. The use of Spanish direct and indirect object pronouns (known as clitics) by adult English speakers was analyzed to see whether morphological errors are the result of computational or representational difficulties. Similarly to previous L2 studies, data have shown that morphological features of Spanish clitics are very hard to be fully acquired. The problem, however, does not result from an underdeveloped functional structure, but rather a deficiency in mapping the morphological features with the syntactic information available. Clitic case morphology is fully acquirable, despite its absence in L1 grammar and the acquisition difficulties it causes.  As such, they appear to support some form of continuity in L2 acquisition suggesting that the universal linguistic knowledge available in childhood is still accessible in post-pubertal age.


Key words: Morphological variability, Spanish direct and indirect object pronouns, L2 case morphology.


Abbreviations: Acc, Accusative case; cl, clitic; COND, conditional mode; Dat, dative case; GER, gerundive; IMP, imperative; IMPERF, imperfect tense; INF, infinitive; MOD,modal verb; NEG, negator; PAST, past tense; PRES, present tense; REL, Relative pronoun; SUBJ, subjunctive mood; Vfin, finite verb; Vinfinfinitival verb.