The Effects of Language Background on the Results of Processing Instruction on the Spanish Subjunctive/Indicative Contrast after the Adverb cuando

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Book Chapter

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Individual Differences and Processing Instruction


Several investigations on the effects of processing instruction on second language development have examined subjunctive mood verbal morphology. Principally, they have examined what is popularly termed in pedagogical grammars the subjunctive of doubt (Farley, 2001a; 2001b; 2004a; 2004b; Fernández, 2008; Lee and Benati, 2007a; 2007b). Complex sentences contain independent and dependent clauses or main and subordinate clauses in which there are grammatical interrelationships. For Spanish and other Romance languages (e.g., Italian, French) when the semantic intent of the independent clause expresses doubt, disbelief, uncertainty or, in some languages, opinion, then the verb in the dependent clause, when the grammatical subjects are not co-referential, must be in the subjunctive mood. In other words, the semantics of the independent clause triggers the form of the verb in the dependent clause. The morphological form of the subjunctive itself does not express the concept of doubt. The semantics of the verb phrase in the main clause is where one finds the expression of doubt, disbelief, uncertainty or opinion. Travis (2003) argues, therefore, that the subjunctive form in these conditions is a semantic agreement marker, an apt description. The example in (1) contrasts with the example in (2) that together illustrate that doubt is expressed in the main clause and it triggers semantic agreement in the dependent clause. If the semantic intent of the independent clause expresses knowledge or certainty, affirms or asserts belief, then the verb in the dependent clause must be in the indicative mood. The subjunctive mood is encoded morphologically and is distinct in form from the indicative mood as seen in the forms of the italicized verbs in (1) and (2). As the English translations show, venga and viene mean the same thing.

(1) Dudo que Juan venga.
I doubt that Juan is coming.
(2) Sé que Juan viene.
I know that Juan is coming.


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