Discurisive Properties of Null and Overt Subjects in Spanish L2 Grammar


The present study has investigated whether the late L2 acquisition of discursive features of Spanish null and lexical subjects is due to an underlying pragmatic impairment on learners’ part, or derives from their inability to cope with the demanding processing task. Adult English speakers learning Spanish were examined in their use of Spanish lexical subjects in focused contexts, and their interpretation of intra-sentential null and overt pronouns. Results have shown that participants encountered a lot of difficulty placing subjects in postverbal position and identifying the appropriate antecedents of anaphoric expressions. The problem, however, does not result from their failure to activate the required cognitive processes. These inconsistencies are attributable to learners’ incomplete pragmatic competence. The syntactically encoded discursive properties of Spanish subjects have been particularly complicated to account for. In any event, contrary to previous L2 studies, no visible L1 transfer effects have been observed in their L2 advanced grammar.


Null Subject Pronouns, Discursive Features, Accessibility, Prominence, Spanish Anaphors, PAS


Learning in Higher Education


Paper Presentation in a Themed Session


  • Maurizio Santoro
    • Professor of Italian, Foreign Languages and LIterature, Queenborough C. College, CUNY, United States United States