Verb Use Among Spanish Immersion Students

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Dr. Daniel Woolsey, Hope College

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The present study examines the linguistic development of elementary school children enrolled in a Spanish immersion program, specifically focusing on their use of Spanish verbs. The driving research questions for the project are: (1) how does the verb use of children develop over time?; and (2) is this development native-speaker-like? The immersion program is located in West Michigan and all children in the study are native speakers of English learning Spanish as their second language. Students in second and fourth grades were interviewed in pairs using a semi-structured questionnaire to elicit language data. Interviews were digitally audio-recorded, subsequently transcribed and analyzed for verb use. The current paper presents results from verb use analyses of second- and fourth-grade students. First, general frequency data are given to characterize verb use at both levels. Second, errors for each group are examined in relation to variables such as verb meaning, verb tense, person, and verb form (regular, stem-change, irregular). At each level, chi-square tests and a regression analysis are run to examine the power of these variables individually and as a group in predicting student errors. Results from the study will be used to compare verb use between second- and fourth-graders, addressing the question of development over time. Findings will also be discussed in relation to the literature regarding children’s acquisition of Spanish as a first language.

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