Acquisition of English tense-aspect morphology by advanced French instructed learners

Dalila Ayoun, M. Rafael Salaberry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


The acquisition of English verbal morphology has been mostly tested as a second language (L2) in English-speaking settings (Bardovi-Harlig, 1992a, 1992b, 1992c, 1998; Bardovi-Harlig & Bergström, 1996; Bayley, 1991, 1994), more rarely as a foreign language (e.g., Robison, 1990, 1995), in only one cross-sectional study with native speakers of French in a foreign/L2 setting in Quebec (Collins, 2002), and never with French speakers living in France, who have much less exposure to English than their Francophone counterparts living in Quebec. The present cross-sectional study analyzes data from a group of 21 high school French speakers learning English in France to address two main research questions: (a) Do our learners exhibit nativelike performance in their use of the various past morphological forms across the lexical aspectual classes (e.g., Vendler, 1957/1967)? (b) Does their first language lead French speakers to overuse the English present perfect due to its morphological similarity with the passé composé? Our findings underscore the effect of lexical aspect on the use of past tense markers while highlighting a significant departure from the predicted developmental path of past tense marking: States are marked more consistently than telic events in the narrative task. Possible theoretical and methodological factors that might account for the present findings are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)555-595
Number of pages41
JournalLanguage Learning
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2008


  • Aspect hypothesis
  • Discourse hypothesis
  • English as a foreign language
  • French instructed learners
  • Past tense morphology
  • Second/foreign language learning
  • Tense and aspect

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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