What Research Can Tell Us About Teaching: The Case of Pronouns and Clitics

  • Joyce Bruhn de GaravitoEmail author
Part of the Educational Linguistics book series (EDUL, volume 16)


This chapter argues that generative linguistics is in a position to make available to second language teaching professionals a large body of evidence that can be fruitfully applied in many areas such as curriculum and textbook design. As an example, the chapter focuses on the acquisition of Spanish weak pronouns (clitics), showing how the current approach to teaching these elements, at least in many textbooks, is at odds with results from research that show consistently that the position of the pronoun is dependent on several factors, and as a result, the different positions are acquired in developmental stages. It is suggested that perhaps language pedagogy would be more effective if pronoun positions were not all taught at the same time, as is currently the practice.


Noun Phrase Direct Object Indirect Object Applied Linguist Null Object 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Alarcos Llorach, E. 1994. Gramática de la lengua española. Madrid: Espasa Calpe.Google Scholar
  2. Andersen, R.W. 1983. Transfer to somewhere. In Language transfer in language learning, ed. S. Gass and L. Selinker. Rowley: Newbury House Publishers.Google Scholar
  3. Bialystok, E., and K. Hakuta. 1999. Confounded age: Linguistic and cognitive factors in age ­differences for second language acquisition. In Second language acquisition and the critical period hypothesis, ed. D. Birdsong, 161–181. Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  4. Birdsong, D. 1999. Introduction: Whys and why nots of the critical period hypothesis for second language acquisition. In Second language acquisition and the critical period hypothesis, ed. D. Birdsong, 1–22. Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  5. Blanco, J.A., and P. Redwine Donley. 2005. Vistas. Introducción a la lengua española. Boston: Vista Higher Learning.Google Scholar
  6. Bleam, T.M. 1999. Leísta Spanish and the syntax of clitic doubling. PhD dissertation. Newark: University of Delaware.Google Scholar
  7. Bley-Vroman, R. 1989. What is the logical problem of foreign language learning? In Linguistic perspectives on second language acquisition, ed. S. Gass and J. Schachter, 41–68. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bruhn de Garavito, J. 2006. Knowledge of clitic doubling in Spanish: A comparison of early and late bilinguals. In Inquiries in linguistic development. In honour of Lydia White, ed. S. Montrul, P. Prévost, and R. Slabakova, 305–333. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.Google Scholar
  9. Bruhn de Garavito, J., and S. Montrul. 1996. Verb movement and clitic placement in French and Spanish as a second language. In Proceedings of the 20th annual Boston University conference on language development, ed. A. Stringfellow, D. Cahana-Amitay, E. Hughes, and A. Zukowski, 123–134. Somerville: Cascadilla Press.Google Scholar
  10. Campos, H. 1986. Indefinite object drop. Linguistic Inquiry 17: 354–359.Google Scholar
  11. Canale, M. 1983. From communicative competence to communicative language pedagogy. In Language and communication, ed. J.C. Richards and R.W. Schmidt, 2–27. London: Longman.Google Scholar
  12. Canale, M., and M. Swain. 1980. Theoretical bases of communicative approaches to second language teaching and testing. Applied Linguistics 1: 1–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Cuervo, M.C. 2002. Spanish clitics: Three of a perfect pair. PhD Dissertation. MIT.Google Scholar
  14. DeKeyser, R.M. 1998. Beyond focus on form: Cognitive perspectives on learning and practising second language grammar. In Focus on form in classroom second language acquisition, ed. C. Doughty and J. Williams, 42–63. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Doughty, C., and E. Varela. 1998. Communicative focus on form. In Focus on form in classroom second language acquisition, ed. C. Doughty and J. Williams, 114–138. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Duffield, N., and L. White. 1999. Assessing L2 knowledge of Spanish clitic placement: Convergent methodologies. Second Language Research 15: 133–160.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Eubank, L., and K. Gregg. 1999. Critical periods and (second) language acquisition: Divide et impera. In Second language acquisition and the critical period hypothesis, ed. D. Birdsong, 65–99. Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  18. Gregg, K.R. 2000. A theory for every occasion: Postmodernism and SLA. Second Language Research 16: 383–399.Google Scholar
  19. Gregg, K.R. 2002. A garden ripe for weeding: A reply to Lantofl. Second Language Research 18: 79–81.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Gregg, K.R. 2006. Taking a social turn for the worse: The language socialization paradigm for second language acquisition. Second Language Research 22: 413–442.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Heap, D. 1996. Optimalizing Iberian clitic sequences. In Theoretical analyses on Romance languages: Selected papers from the 26th linguistic symposium on Romance languages, ed. J. Lema and E. Treviño, 227–248. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.Google Scholar
  22. Heap, D. 2000. Morphological complexity and Spanish object clitic variation. In Romance syntax, semantics and L2 acquisition: Selected papers from the 30th linguistic symposium on Romance languages, Gainesville, Florida, Feb 2000, ed. C.R. Wiltshire and J. Camps, 55–67. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.Google Scholar
  23. Hymes, D. 1972. On communicative competence. In Sociolinguistics, ed. J.B. Pride and J. Holmes, 269–293. Harmondsworth: Penguin.Google Scholar
  24. Jarvis, A.C., R. Lebredo, F. Mena-Ayllón, M. Rowinsky-Geurts, and R.L. Stewart. 2012. Hola Amigos (2nd Canadian edn.). Toronto: Nelson Education.Google Scholar
  25. Johnson, J., and E. Newport. 1989. Critical period effects in second language learning: The influence of maturational state on the acquisition of English as a second language. Cognitive Psychology 21: 60–99.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Kayne, R.S. 1991. Romance clitics, verb movement, and PRO. Linguistic Inquiry 22: 647–686.Google Scholar
  27. Krashen, S. 1977. Some issues relating to the monitor model. In On Tesol ‘77, ed. H.D. Brown, C.A. Yorio, and R.H. Crymes, 144–158. Washington, DC: TESOL.Google Scholar
  28. Lantolf, J.P. 1996. SLA theory building: Letting all the flowers bloom! Language Learning 46: 713–749.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Lantolf, J.P. 2000. Sociocultural theory and second language learning. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  30. Lantolf, J.P. 2002. Commentary from the flower garden: Responding to Gregg, 2000. Second Language Research 18: 72–78.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Lenneberg, E. 1967. Biological foundations of language. New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  32. Lightbown, P. 1985. Great expectations: Second-language acquisition research and classroom teaching. Applied Linguistics 6: 173–189.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Lightbown, P., and N. Spada. 1990. Focus on form and corrective feedback in communicative language teaching: Effects on second language learning. Studies in Second Language Acquisition 12: 429–448.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Long, M.H. 1991. Focus on form: A design feature in language teaching methodology. In Foreign language research in cross-cultural perspective, ed. K. de Bot, R.B. Ginsberg, and C. Kramsch, 39–52. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.Google Scholar
  35. Masullo, P.J. 1992. Incorporation and case theory in Spanish. A crosslinguistic perspective. PhD dissertation. University of Washington.Google Scholar
  36. Roberge, Y. 1990. The syntactic recoverability of null arguments. Kingston/Montreal: McGill-­Queen’s University Press.Google Scholar
  37. Savignon, S. 1983. Communicative competence: Theory and classroom practice. Reading: Addison-Wesley.Google Scholar
  38. Schwartz, B. 1993. On explicit and negative data affecting and effecting competence and linguistic behavior. Studies in Second Language Acquisition 20: 147–163.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Schwartz, B.D., and R.A. Sprouse. 1997. Transfer: A tradition in transition. Talk presented at American Association of Applied Linguistics, 9 Mar 1997.Google Scholar
  40. Schwartz, B.D., and R.A. Sprouse. 1996. L2 cognitive states and the Full Transfer/Full Access model. Second Language Research 12: 40–72.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Selinker, L. 1972. Interlanguage. International Review of Applied Linguistics 10: 209–231.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Sheen, R. 2002. ‘Focus on form’ and ‘focus on forms’. ELT Journal 56: 303–305.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Suñer, M. 1988. The role of agreement in clitic doubled constructions. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory 6: 391–434.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Uriagereka, J. 1995. Aspects of the syntax of clitic placement in Western Romance. Linguistic Inquiry 26: 79–124.Google Scholar
  45. Watson-Gegeo, K.A. 2004. Mind, language and epistemology: Toward a language socialization paradigm for SLA. Modern Language Journal 88: 331–350.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Weinreich, U. 1953. Languages in contact: Findings and problems. The Hague: Mouton.Google Scholar
  47. Zobl, H. 1980. The formal and developmental selectivity of L1 influence on L2 acquisition. Language Learning 30: 43–57.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Zyzik, E. 2008. Null objects in second language acquisition: Grammatical vs. performance models. Second Language Research 24: 65–11.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Modern Languages and LiteraturesUniversity of Western OntarioLondonCanada

Personalised recommendations