Selected Annotated Bibliography: Spanish Learner Language

Shawna Wicker, University of Minnesota, March, 2016

A note on organization:
Within each topic area (e.g. tense-aspect), all research studies focused on that topic are listed in chronological order, beginning with the oldest and ending with the most recent, assuming that each research study entails and builds on the findings of previous studies.


Geeslin, K. (Ed.). (2014). The Handbook of Spanish Second Language Acquisition. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.

This handbook covers a broad range of topics relating to Spanish SLA including a sampling of theoretical approaches, phonology, morphosyntax, heritage learners of Spanish, individual factors of acquisition, and Spanish teaching and learning in the classroom . It synthesizes research findings on the acquisition of language features such as copula contrast, L2 speech perception, subject and object pronouns, grammatical gender, tense and aspect, subjunctive mood, and word order. The book also provides insight into the social and pedagogical aspects of the field including affective factors, teaching pronunciation, writing, reading, and the effect of study abroad. Chapters are each written by current experts in the field and organized by topic into five parts.


Montrul, S., & Slabakova, R. (2003). Competence similarities between native and near-native speakers. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 25 (03), 351-398. doi:10.017/S0272263103000159

In this study, L2 knowledge of the Spanish preterit and imperfect in the interlanguage of intermediate, advanced, and near-native speakers were tested. Two perceptual tasks probing the interpretations of imperfective and perfective aspectual forms in Spanish were performed. Evidence from these tasks suggest that nearly 30% from the total subject pool and 70% from the near-native group performed like native speakers on all sentence types in all tasks.  This study suggests that the distinction between preterit and imperfect is ultimately attainable for learners of Spanish.

Heritage Learners of Spanish

American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages. (1996). Standards of foreign language teaching (ACTFL).

The term "heritage language learners" first appeared in the ACTFL Standards of Foreign Language Teaching (1996).  It has since been adopted and used widely in the US to refer to a "wide variety of individuals." (Potowski, 2014)

Potowski, K. (2014). Heritage learners of Spanish. In K.L. Geeslin (Ed.), The handbook of Spanish second language acquisition (First ed., pp. 404-422) John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

In this book chapter, Potowski overviews the diversity among definitions of "heritage Spanish speaker", their linguistic systems, and the pedagogically-focused research studies carried out on the subject.  She explains that what primarily differentiates the HL from L2 learners is, "that they are exposed to Spanish starting at birth from their family members."  She also discusses the heterogeneity among the "narrowly"-classified HLs (Valdés 2000) using five dimensions of variation: historical, linguistic, educational, affective, and cultural.

Valdés, G. (2000). Introduction. In L. Sandstedt (Ed.), Spanish for native speakers. New York: Harcourt College.

Subject Pronouns

Lubbers Quesada, M. (2014). Subject pronouns in second language Spanish. In K.L. Geeslin (Ed.), The handbook of Spanish second language acquisition (pp. 253-269). Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.

This chapter overviews the acquisition of Spanish subject pronouns using several theoretical perspectives, including generative approaches.  It reviews the research conducted on how learners of Spanish grapple with the “pro-drop” language.  It is concluded that learners are indeed capable of learning the “drop” aspect of Spanish, that is the zero or “null” option of overt subject expression, and that it may also occur somewhat early in the process of acquiring the language.


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