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2. Interpreting mood distinctions in Spanish as a heritage language

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Abstract

This chapter focuses on the mental representation of mood in Spanish heritage speakers (2nd generation immigrants of Spanish background living in the US). A variety of studies have amply documented the loss and/or incomplete acquisition of subjunctive mood in these speakers (Merino 1983, Lipski 1993, Silva-Corvalán 1994, 2003; Lynch 1999). These studies analyzed production data and showed that subjunctive morphology is replaced by indicative in cases where the use of subjunctive or indicative is variable and subject to different semantic or pragmatic implications. The goal of this study is to go<i>beyond </i>production of morphological forms and probe into the<i>interpretations </i>bilinguals assign to sentences with indicative and subjunctive in obligatory and variable contexts. The study assumes the theoretical framework of generative grammar by which mood is represented as a functional category MoodP in Spanish. Subjunctive morphology carries the feature [+ MOOD], which are crucial for the interpretation of the morphology. We know that bilinguals have difficulty producing subjunctive morphology in speech. If MoodP is absent from the bilinguals' grammars, then they should have difficulty with the interpretation of mood morphology as well. Monolingual and bilingual heritage Spanish speakers completed a task testing recognition of subjunctive in obligatory contexts and a judgment task which tested interpretation of subjunctive in variable contexts. The task tested relative clauses, and adverbial clauses with<i>cuando </i>and with<i>de manera que</i>. Results showed a correlation between recognition of indicative/subjunctive morphology and semantic interpretations. Those bilinguals whose apparent loss of Spanish subjunctive mood was most pronounced in the morphological recognition task had difficulty discriminating between indicative and subjunctive sentences in the sentence conjunction judgment task, suggesting that the feature [+ MOOD] was not operational. In short, it appears that the loss of a functional category involves loss of morphophonology and semantic features.

References

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