Learner and native-speaker differences in the acceptability of gustar-type psychological verbs in Spanish

Matthew Kanwit
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  • Linguistics, University of Pittsburgh, 2816 Cathedral of Learning, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15260, USA
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and Margaret Lubbers Quesada

Abstract

Spanish gustar-type psychological verbs have a reverse, intransitive structure that is notably different from their direct, transitive counterpart in English. Research has pointed to the dative marker a to be the most problematic element for learners to acquire (Quesada, M. 2008. *Yo gusto pasteles de chocolate: De la transitividad hacia la intransitividad en la adquisición de verbos psicológicos en español. In R. M. Ortiz Ciscomani (ed.), Memoria del IX EILN, 55–72. Hermosillo, México: Editorial Universidad de Sonora; Toth, P. D. 2003. Psych verbs and morphosyntactic development in instructed L2 Spanish. In S. Montrul & F. Ordóñez (eds.), Linguistic theory and language development in Hispanic languages, 468–497. Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Press), although other studies have noted the difficulties of verb-theme agreement (Montrul 1997b; Toribio, A. J. & C. Nye. 2006. Restructuring of reverse psychological predicates. In C. Nishida & J. P. Montreuil (eds.), New perspectives on romance linguistics, 263–277. Austin, TX: Benjamins). This study examines how 24 low-intermediate and 24 high-intermediate learners of L2 Spanish with L1 English, as well as 20 native speakers (NSs), performed on a 99-item grammaticality judgment test. Sentences varied in their use of the dative marker, theme-verb agreement, and indirect object clitic pronouns. Reading times were also captured for each item. Results reveal that learners responded significantly differently from NSs. Furthermore, the fact that the most critical elements of such constructions were different for NSs than for what is currently emphasized in the classroom has relevant pedagogical implications.

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