Beyond morphological use: what semantic knowledge tells us about aspect in L2 Portuguese

Jason Rothman, Michael Iverson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study investigates the acquisition of [±perfective] aspect in L2 Portuguese via knowledge of the [± accidental] distinction that obtains between the Preterit and Imperfect in adverbially quantified sentences (LENCI; BERTINETTO, 2000; MENÉNDEZ-BENITO, 2002). Crucially, we show that intermediate L2 learners demonstrate phrasal semantic knowledge that we argue is accessed via the acquisition of new L2 features. As a result, we contend that the data support theories of adult UG-continuity (DUFFIELD; WHITE, 1999; SCHWARTZ; SPROUSE, 1996) and provide evidence in contra so-called Failed Features accounts of SLA (BECK, 1998; HAWKINS; CHAN, 1997). Furthermore, we discuss these data in light of probabilistic approaches to SLA, which interpret errors in morphological use at this level as evidence of underlying deficits in L2 mental representations. With others, we argue that morphological performance alone is neither a direct nor an exact measure of linguistic competence (PRÉVOST; WHITE, 2000; LARDIERE, 1998, 2006).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)233-259
Number of pages27
JournalEstudos da lingua(gem)
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • L2 acquisition
  • Aspect in L2 Portuguese
  • Theories of adult UG-continuity


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