Perfecting the past

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Studies on Spanish first language (L1) acquisition have shown that the Present Perfect (PP) appears together with the Present tense, or immediately after, and Peninsular Spanish children use it productively before the Preterit. Though the PP has become the default form of past reference in many varieties of Peninsular Spanish, this finding is surprising given the Perfect’s morphological and semantic complexity. In a corpus study of longitudinal spontaneous data of two L1 Peninsular Spanish children (María, 1;09–3;11; Emilio, 1;09–3;10), we explore the emergence and distribution of tenses, and the types of uses of the PP. Results are consistent with the absence of a complex, indirect referential meaning for the PP and suggest that children have a simpler meaning for it, and thus having the form does not necessarily imply having the meaning.


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