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General description of the SPLLOC 2 corpus

The project

The SPLLOC 2 project is titled "The Emergence and Development of the Tense-Aspect System in L2 Spanish". The project runs from August 2008 to January 2010 inclusive. The research team includes: Dr Laura Dominguez, University of Southampton (Principal Investigator); Prof Ros Mitchell, University of Southampton (Co-Investigator); Prof Florence Myles, University of Newcastle (Co-Investigator); Dr Maria Arche, University of Greenwich (Project Advisor); and Dr Nicole Tracy-Ventura, University of Southampton (Research Fellow).

The project has three main aims:

  1. To enhance the existing SPLLOC database of L2 Spanish by collecting new cross-sectional learner past tense data.
  2. To undertake a short programme of substantive research on the development of the Tense-Aspect system in L2 Spanish which will:
    1. Test selected predictions of the Lexical Aspect Hypothesis and the Discourse Hypothesis regarding the emergence of L2 tense and aspect.
    2. Explore the interface between morphology and semantics with respect to the imperfect in Spanish L2.
  3. To understand the route of acquisition of past forms in an instructed setting and consider its implications for curriculum design and teaching practice.

The research questions

In line with these aims, the substantive research agenda for SPLLOC 2 is addressing the following research questions:

General Questions:

  1. What is the pattern of Tense-Aspect development of English L2 learners of Spanish? Is there any aspect-tensed form that tends to appear first?
  2. Can the observed pattern be accounted for by means of the Lexical Aspect Hypothesis? Does discourse structure play a role in determining the forms employed? What forms are associated to the different types of discursive modes?
  3. To what extent can an interface-based account explain the way Aspect features are materialised in a second language?

Specific Questions:

  1. With which type of eventualities does the imperfect appear first?
  2. Which reading is the imperfect associated with in the first place (habitual, continuous, progressive)? Is the observed tendency compatible with the predictions made by previous hypothesis, such as the Lexical Aspect Hypothesis?
  3. Is there a reading of the imperfect that is earlier and more accurately understood than others? Can a sequence of acquisition of readings of the imperfect be established? How far can this be accounted for as a semantic transfer from the L1? Are the imperfective meanings from L1 the first ones to be associated to the imperfect morpheme in the L2?
  4. How much is the development of the imperfect a combination of morphological and semantic knowledge?

The learner corpus

The SPLLOC 2 corpus includes extensive samples of spoken Spanish produced by 60 instructed learners with English as their L1.

The learners

The learners are all English L1 speakers who have learned L2 Spanish in educational contexts within the UK. Speakers from bilingual English/Spanish backgrounds or with extensive social contacts with Spanish speakers were excluded from the sample. It was not possible to control learner selection for gender as the large majority of L2 learners at college and university levels in the UK are female.

The learners are at 3 different levels:

L2 Spanish level Typical age Approx no hours of Spanish instruction Educational level (English system) Approx position on CEFR
Low intermediate N = 20 14-15 years c 240 hours Lower secondary school (Year 10) A2
Intermediate N = 20 17-18 c 750 hours Sixth form college (Year 13) B1-B2
Advanced N = 20 21-22 C 895 hours + year abroad University (Year 4) C1-C2

The native speakers

The corpus also includes samples of spoken Spanish produced by native speakers of similar ages to the L2 learners (5 at each age level), performing the same range of tasks. The data was collected on site in schools and colleges in Spain.

SPLLOC 2 tasks

The learners all undertook 5 tasks. The first four tasks were designed to explore the learners' developing ability to describe past events orally in L2 Spanish in a variety of ways, and to relate these in sequences, in both more open and more controlled contexts (narrative tasks, guided interview, simultaneous events task). The learners undertook these speaking activities individually with a member of the research team. The fifth task was a computer based interpretation task, and was specifically designed to explore learners' developing ability to distinguish different meanings of the Spanish imperfect and preterit.

The tasks are as follows:

Guided interview (autobiography + famous people from the past
"Nati y Pancho" narrative (cat story)
"Las Hermanas" narrative
Simultaneous actions task
Semantic interpretation task

The audio recordings

Learner speech was audio recorded using small portable digital voice recorders. The resulting sound files are being made available through the website in both .wav and MP3 formats.

WARNING: The quality of the sound files is variable depending on the recording conditions at school and college sites.