Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name


Other Degree Name/Area of Focus

Applied Linguistics

Department or School/College

Linguistics Program

Committee Chair

Naomi Lapidus Shin

Commitee Members

Tully Thibeau, Leora Bar-el


University of Montana


This thesis aims to develop an understanding of the Root Infinitive (RI) phenomenon in child L2 Spanish. Previous research has investigated this phenomenon in Spanish first language acquisition and in adult L2 Spanish, but much less attention has been given to this phenomenon in children learning Spanish as a second language. This thesis focuses on whether children learning Spanish as a second language go through a RI stage. It also examines which morphological forms and types of predicates appear in the RI stage of these children. The data for this study were collected via natural production in oral and written form, using a wordless book by Mercer Mayer: A BOY, A DOG and A FROG. There were 30 child subjects, all native speakers of English, who received Spanish immersion instruction at the Missoula International School in Missoula, Montana.

As hypothesized, the results of this study suggest that children learning Spanish as a second language go through a RI stage. The RI stage for child L2 Spanish was found to be closely related to the RI stage in LI Spanish. The RI forms in child L2 Spanish appear mainly as bare stems and overgeneralizations. Few morphological infinitives exist in the production of these children. The quantitative results show that the RIs forms manifest primarily with event-denoting predicates. The presence of the RI stage in child L2 Spanish raises fundamental questions about the acquisition of verbal morphology. One question is whether the RI stage can be described as a natural development attributed to cognitive processes, transfer from LI English or the type of instruction. The results of this study suggest three stages in the acquisition of verbal morphology in child L2 Spanish.



© Copyright 2009 Sandra Patricia Cano Garcia