Chapter 6. Formation and function of the simple present in conversational L2 Russian

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Much research involving the second language (L2) acquisition of tense-aspect systems has focused on the acquisition of past tense (e.g. Ayoun 2005; Bardovi-Harlig 2000; Salaberry 2008), with relatively few studies emphasizing the L2 acquisition of non-past features. The present study investigates the conversational production of present tense forms in L2 Russian (L1 English) by means of a prototype account (Li & Shirai 2000; Shirai & Andersen 1995). Data from conversational interviews (n=33) were examined in order to address the questions of which present tense functions are more and less prototypical among L2 learners of Russian, as well as how the learners produce the morphological endings of the simple present. Some patterns reflected in the data show that learners of all proficiency levels regard the expression of a present state and the habitual present as most prototypical, while reference to immediate future and the historical present are less prototypical. The data also illustrate examples of lower-proficiency learners producing the highest number of morphological errors as well as using the present tense in situations that are not compatible with present tense usage in English or Russian, such as future habitual and past reference. Implications for pedagogical practices in the teaching of the present tense in L2 Russian are discussed.


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