While students typically are able to increase their proficiency level and increase their use of categorical features while studying abroad, less is known about the development, or lack thereof, over time of variable features. The current study examines the development of three geographically variant features, specific to the dialect of North-Central Castilian Spanish: the informal second person plural form vosotros, the interdental fricative [θ], and the uvular fricative [χ] in 25 adult speakers of English learning Spanish. During a 13-week semester abroad in Central Spain, the participants--all undergraduate majors or minors of Spanish--completed four tasks at the beginning, middle, and end of the semester to elicit the 3 dialectal features. In addition, the learners completed questionnaires about their background, language contact, and attitudes toward Castilian Spanish. To expand on the answers in the questionnaire, the participants completed a semi-structured interview with the researcher. The results showed a significant increase from the beginning to the middle of the semester in the production of vosotros (9% to 18%) and [χ] (9% to 13%), but no significant change from the middle to the end of the semester. On the other hand, the use of [θ] remained about the same throughout the semester, around 7%. The social factors correlated with the increased use of the features were stronger motivation to learn Spanish, less contact with English and fewer weekend trips, more dialectal awareness, and a stronger desire to speak Castilian Spanish. This study adds to the growing amount of research on the acquisition of variable features by learners of Spanish in a study abroad environment. It also examines social and linguistic factors correlated with the use of salient dialectal features. It fills a gap in previous research by examining the relationship between social factors, such as language attitudes, and the production of variable features, as previously noted by Geeslin (2011). Finally, it also provides insight into the acquisition of a dialect in one's second language by study abroad learners.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. May 2013. Major: Hispanic and Luso-Brazilian Literatures and Linguistics. Advisors: Carol Klee, Timothy Face. 1 computer file (PDF); x, 251 pages.
The Development of Castilian Dialectal Features During a Semester Abroad in Toledo, Spain.
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