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Losing your case? Dative experiencers in Mexican Spanish and heritage speakers in the United States

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Abstract

This chapter examines the gradual loss of dative case marking with dative experiencer verbs among Spanish heritage speakers of Mexican-American origin, first generation adult immigrants from Mexico, and two control groups of Spanish native speakers from Mexico tested in Mexico. According to the results of the written production task, heritage speakers and adult immigrants tend to omit the “a” with gustar-type verbs whereas the native speakers from Mexico do not omit a-marking in written production. Interestingly all bilingual groups, and even several native speakers from Mexico accepted ungrammatical sentences without a-marking in the acceptability judgment task. These results suggest that the erosion of dative case marking with dative experiencer subjects is a tendency already present in the monolingual variety. Although incomplete acquisition and attrition due to insufficient input and use may lead to an eventually different grammar in first and second generation immigrants, the results of this study support the claim that a language contact situation accelerates changes already in progress in monolingual varieties (Silva-Corvalán, 1994). ungrammatical sentences without a-marking in the acceptability judgment task

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