aspectual distinction, systematization, proficiency level, heritage speakers, erosion


The language of early bilingual Spanish-English speakers in the United States is often distinct from that of monolingually raised native speakers of Spanish. This study analyzes the usage of the aspectual distinction in the past tense among 23 early Spanish-English bilingual speakers and 9 monolingually raised native speakers of Mexican Spanish. The participants engaged in a role-play in order to elicit a past-tense verbal form, either preterite or imperfect, for 15 test items. The results show that as level of proficiency in Spanish increases, the level of consensus with the responses of the monolingually raised native speakers of Spanish increases. An effect was also found for the level of inherent lexical aspect of verbs (accomplishments, activities, achievements, states), with states displaying the highest levels of divergence from the native-speaking baseline, even among the advanced-proficiency early bilinguals. Unexpectedly, no relationship was found between the level of proficiency and the age at which the participants were first exposed to English. This study contributes to the literature documenting the language of a growing population of Spanish speakers in the United States as well as detailing the similarity between early bilinguals and L2 learners of Spanish with respect to their linguistic development.

Original Publication Citation

Valentín-Rivera, Laura & Earl K. Brown. "Revisiting the Notion of Linguistic 'Erosion' Among Early Bilinguals: The case of Aspectual Distinction." Peer-reviwed chapter in volume entitled "Spanish in the US: Variation, Attitudes, and Pedagogy" edited by Scott Alvord and Gregory Thompson of Brigham Young University, under contract with Routledge publishing house.

Document Type

Book Chapter

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University Standing at Time of Publication

Associate Professor

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