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Competing Cues: A Corpus-based Study of the English Tense-Aspect in Second Language Acquisition

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journal contribution
posted on 01.04.2010 by Yun Zhao, Brian Macwhinney

Current work on the acquisition of tense and aspect has its roots in the morpheme order studies of the 1970s. These studies looked at the acquisition of verb morphology by L2 learners of English in terms of the accuracy of tense- aspect inflections in obligatory contexts (Dulay & Burt, 1972; Bayley, 1994; Larsen-Freeman, 1975). Although these studies often identified universal orders across learners, they failed to provide an explanation for the observed orders. One exception is the analysi by Goldschneider and DeKeyser (2005) that tried to explain the natural order of six grammatical forms by taking account of the interaction of the five factors of perceptual salience, semantic complexity, morphophonological regularity, syntactic category, and frequency. This analysis concluded that saliency is the most important of the five factors. However, for each of the six grammatical forms that were analyzed, there were other factors that could have played a possibly more important in influencing their order of acquisition.