Chapter 9. The development of tense and aspect morphology in child and adult heritage speakers
This cross-sectional study examines the production of tense and aspect morphology in child and adult heritage Spanish, with the view of informing the development of pedagogical interventions in Spanish language for child and adult heritage Spanish speakers. We compare natural production data from Spanish/English bilingual speakers with monolingual children and adults matched by age. Results show a preference for the production of the preterite as opposed to the imperfect among the older bilingual children, compared to younger children and adults, suggesting L1 attrition in the life span. We argue that the overproduction of preterite tense might be due to semantic transfer from English and morphosemantic restructuring of the aspectual system. The imperfect tense remains underdeveloped across all age groups in the bilingual population, and competes with present tense in adulthood, suggesting incomplete development. Based on these results, we discuss important pedagogical implications for the teaching of aspectual distinctions in heritage Spanish. Finally, we conclude that both L1 attrition and incomplete acquisition play a fundamental role in heritage language development, depending on the type of linguistic knowledge, which has an impact on the Spanish language teaching practices to be adopted for child and adult heritage speakers.