Chapter 4. There is no time like the present

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In-depth longitudinal case studies have the tremendous potential of answering the long-standing question of ultimate attainment in second language (L2) acquisition (Hyltenstam & Abrahamsson 2003). However, there are very few such studies, particularly focusing on tense, aspect, mood/modality (TAM) with the notable exception of the longitudinal case study of Patty, a Chinese adult immigrant learner of English (Lardiere 2007). This chapter focuses on the post-puberty L2 acquisition of French in an instructed setting of Billy, an anglophone learner. Qualitative analyses of written data elicited over a three year period will allow us to address the following research questions: (a) can an instructed learner build a native-like TAM system?; (b) where does present indicative and subjunctive alternation fit in the learner’s TAM system?; (c) is the instructed setting of a foreign language classroom sufficient to achieve ultimate attainment (Billy has never been abroad in a French-speaking country)? Findings show that Billy consistently marks tense and contrasts various temporalities, suggesting that his L2 acquisition of French is successful, but with a task effect betraying a not yet complete acquisition of subtle temporal distinctions.


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