Imperatives in Heritage Spanish: Lexical Access and Lexical Frequency Effects



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Along with declaratives and interrogatives, imperatives are one of the three major clause types of human language. In Spanish, imperative verb forms present poor morphology, yet complex syntax. The present study examines the acquisition of (morpho)syntactic properties of imperatives in Spanish among English-speaking heritage speakers of Spanish. With the use of production and acceptability judgment tasks, this study investigates the acquisition of verb morphology and clitic placement in canonical and negative imperatives. The results indicate that the acquisition of Spanish imperatives among heritage speakers is shaped by the heritage speakers’ productive vocabulary knowledge, lexical frequency and syntactic complexity. Indeed, most of the variability in their knowledge was found in their production of negative imperatives: heritage speakers show a rather stable receptive grammatical knowledge while their production shows signs of variability modulated by the heritage speakers’ productive vocabulary knowledge and by the lexical frequency of the verb featured in the test items.




Languages 8 (3): 218 (2023)