Date of Award

December 2009

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Fred Eckman

Committee Members

Fred Eckman, Edith Moravcsik, Patricia Mayes, Hamid Ouali, Bozena Tieszen


L2 Tense-aspect Acquisition


This study introduces a typological model of the conceptual language-specific approach to the L2 research on the acquisition of tense-aspect. The model is based on the typological notion of prominence, classifying languages into tense-prominent and aspect-prominent (Bhat 1999) and the L1 research proposal that language-specific lexicalization patterns have a role in shaping form-function mappings in child language (Berman and Slobin 1994, Slobin 1991, 1996a, 1996b). The study represents an attempt to investigate language-specific L1 effects (Odlin 2005) in the L2 acquisition of complex form-function grammatical domains, such as tense-aspect. The most influential L2 tense-aspect research has focused on the acquisition of verb morphology (form-to-function analysis) and the acquisition of temporality (function-to-form analysis, respectively (Bardovi-Harlig 2000). The research investigated the Aspect Hypothesis (Andersen 1991, Andersen and Shirai 1994, Bardovi-Harlig 1992), the Discourse Hypothesis (Bardovi-Harlig 1995), and the Prototype Hypothesis (Shirai 1991, Li and Shirai 2000). Based on Vendler (1967), these studies explore the L2 acquisition of inherent verb aspect in comparison to grammatical aspect and tense. L2 research on specific L1/L2 contexts has not been of major interests to the L2 scholars. Turning to the specific L1/L2 features of tense-aspect prominence and aspect-prominence, this bi-directional study tests the Grammatical Domain Hypothesis (GDH) with two groups of intermediate--high intermediate instructed L2 learners: L1 English (tense-prominent)/L2 Russian (N=21) and L1 Russian (aspect-prominent/L2 English (N= 11). The L2 data were elicited on two written tasks: a cloze task and a Frog Story task, with the native speaker responses as the baseline for both tasks. The results are categorized as follows: target/non-target use of tense-aspect (task 1); non-target morphological forms, tense-aspect substitutions, lexical aspectual means, and idiosyncratic clausal strategies (task 2). The findings reveal L2 tendencies supporting the GDH: L1 English/L2 Russian learners show 'tense bias', while limiting the aspectual choices. Conversely, L1 Russian/L2 English learners show 'aspect bias' while inconsistently mixing L2 tenses. Potential methodological and interpretation problems are presented in the conclusion, followed by the pedagogical implications the study may have on the instructional methods in teaching tense-aspect to L2 learners from the typologically mismatching L1's.

Included in

Linguistics Commons